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  • Writer's pictureBryce Chismire

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - 4th of July Review

SPOILER ALERT

 

Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books. – Jefferson Smith

 

When you think of Frank Capra, what would usually be the first film of his that comes to mind? Most of the time, people would point to 'It's a Wonderful Life,' and who would blame them? With its stellar acting, uplifting storytelling, and the famous climax demonstrating what one's life would've been like had he never been born, 'It's a Wonderful Life' became a classic ever since it came out in 1946.

 

Of course, it's not just 'It's a Wonderful Life' that made Frank Capra a household name. Let's look at some of his other movies that put him into the limelight. Among other films, he also directed the Best-Picture-winning 'It Happened One Night' starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, 'Lost Horizons', 'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town', to name a few.

 

However, in what is retrospectively declared the golden year of films, 1939, Frank Capra unleashed his American masterpiece, 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'. Chances are, people might look back on this movie and see it as an old-fashioned film that promotes the ideals of the American way and how to abide by them in the face of corruption.

 

Well, guess what? I'm not joking when I tell you that, because of this, this movie might be my all-time favorite from Frank Capra, even when comparing this to 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

 

Let me explain.



The story is about a young man named Jefferson Smith, who was asked to fill a senatorial seat after the former occupant, U.S. Senator Sam Foley, unexpectedly died. But was Jefferson Smith selected because of his political background? Initially, it was debatable, for he was rushed into the role at the last minute by the senators who wanted to ensure it was filled out as soon as possible; he was also nominated at U.S. Senator Hubert 'Happy' Hopper's children's recommendation. At first, Jefferson Smith was overjoyed to be filling a senatorial seat, and he started his settlement in Washington, D.C. by exploring all the ins and outs of the capital of the United States of America.

 

However, as soon as Jefferson Smith presented his first bill to the U.S. Senate, where he'd propose the establishment of a National Boys' Camp back home, what caught many of his peers off-guard was where he planned to establish it: beside Willet Creek. What happened was that Jefferson Smith's idol and family friend, Senator Joseph Payne, was in cahoots with the underhanded Jim Taylor, who planned to build a dam right where Smith sought to establish the National Boys' Camp, and Smith never knew that. Because Smith grew up learning the undeniable values of hard work, ethics, and truth, he lunged against all the conspiracies regarding everything that may make him look insane or unfit for office. Once he finally caught on to Jim Taylor's plans for the dam, Smith grew more confident not only to live up to his newly appointed profession but to ensure that all of Jim Taylor's nefarious plans to build the dam where the campground was to be would no longer pass.

 

Okay, so looking at the story, much of it concerns fighting the greatest of battles over properties from back home rather than the country at large. And while I wouldn't go so far as to call the goals petty, they seem a little moderate yet not minuscule. However, I can let it slide because you can feel the devotion and passion Jefferson Smith felt when some of the most prosperous things he was proud to have established back home were now in jeopardy of being torn down by another fellow politician's nefarious plans. It tells you how the glories of the American Dream are starting to wither because of the politicians in power who abuse it for their personal gain.

 

On the other hand, even though he fought his hardest to save it, Jefferson Smith did it because he knew it would inspire countless Americans. As he did so, he was guided into that glory with the help of a good friend he made in Washington D.C., fellow secretary Clarissa Saunders, who was initially skeptical about Smith's potential as a senator in Washington D.C. However, as Smith demonstrated why something like his campground back home was something worth fighting for when considering liberty and the American Dream, his convictions started to slowly warm Saunders' heart until she was finally willing to do anything in her power to help Smith in his case against Paine and Taylor and put a stop to their tyranny once and for all.

 

While I didn't think I would've been into it when I saw it the first time, I relished so many things about this movie that I didn't expect to.

 

To start, let's look at the characters.



At first glance, Jefferson Smith seemed like he was elected to office as the replacement Senator just out of pure dumb luck. For most of his introductory scenes in the film, he seemed like a wide-eyed, naive, innocent tourist wandering throughout Washington D.C. to gather in all the glorious sights and sounds, even if he had a job to do as he got more settled into his new position in the Senate's office. But once he was made into the subject of mockery and fooled around by the higher-ups in office, Jefferson Smith is one of those characters who started like a sheep only to mature and unleash his innermost potential as a full-fledged lion. That's what Jefferson Smith feels like to me, and the idea of watching him prove his worth as a true American Senator, despite his rather simplistic goals, still conveys him in a more rigorous, awe-inspiring manner.

 

I was worried that Clarissa Saunders, his secretary, would've been no more than a love interest fit for Jefferson Smith. But what impressed me about her is that she worked as a secretary in politics for a long time and was on the verge of quitting her job as a secretary and giving up her life in Washington D.C. out of disgust against the political debacles erupting around her…until Jefferson Smith came along. Smith's convictions and drive to put the corrupt politicians in their place and inject what the United States of America was established with back into Washington D.C., the very heart of this country, was enough to help Saunders second-guess her decision to quit her job and fight for what Smith saw as a lost cause worth fighting for.

 

I also admire her relationship with Jefferson Smith for a couple of other reasons, even though some parts of it do feel equivalent to a mother preparing her child for the real world. Even Saunders herself thought so when talking to Diz Moore about it. What I like about this relationship is that it was established around experience. Smith was entirely new to Washington D.C.'s ethics and how things went there, while Saunders had enough experience to know almost every in and out of Washington D.C. society. So, it is genuinely touching to see them work off each other as Jefferson Smith gradually rose to prove himself as the Senator he became.

 

Jim Taylor, the mastermind behind the dam project, did not get as much screen time as I thought he'd have received. But his deeds, aloof attitude, and the consequences of his underhanded deeds portrayed him as a dastardlier character than he'd let on. And once he retaliated by any means necessary when Jefferson Smith rose back into action, he only demonstrated further what kind of ruin an American politician can unleash, especially if it was for his benefit rather than for that of his country and fellow citizens.

 

As I watched Jim Taylor in action throughout the movie, I started looking at him and his affiliates like they felt dirtier than your average American politicians. Jim Taylor meant to build a dam, but the motivation behind it was to achieve more money and power with it and his affiliates with little regard for the citizens who lived near it. Do you know who else had such similar mindsets? Julius Caesar and his Roman soldiers. And I'll give you one guess as to what became of the Roman Empire because of people like them.

 

Yet, I love how, unlike 'It's a Wonderful Life,' where there's just George Bailey and Mr. Potter, as far as the battle between Jefferson Smith and Jim Taylor was concerned, there was an in-between to navigate between the forces of good and evil, and that would be U.S. Senator Joseph Paine.


L to R: Jim Taylor and Joseph Paine

He knew Jefferson's father, Clayton Smith, Jefferson idolized him since he was a kid, and just like Smith, Joseph Paine went into Washington D.C. with the same ideals he did, only for the reality of Washington D.C., not to mention the political corruption that came with it, to sweet-talk him into giving in to the politicians' like-minded and deceitful methods. Even though Paine acted on his devious methods with as little hesitation as Jim Taylor did, there's still a twinge of him that felt uncertain about where he stood in the political battles in which Jefferson Smith was now involved and that Jefferson Smith, not Jim Taylor, may have had the right idea, if not for his hardened beliefs trying to tell him otherwise. So, the idea of watching Jefferson Smith attempt to reason with Paine and try to pull him out of the darkness, knowing that the man he idolized couldn't possibly have been dead, is just remarkable. Frankly, if Jefferson Smith embodied the ideals and aspirations of America, then Joseph Payne embodied the reality and inner conflicts of America.

 

At first, I did not think that Diz Moore, who was a reporter and had the hots for Clarissa Saunders, had enough going for him outside of his hopes to be Saunders' future husband, only to let her go after she admitted to being more smitten with Jefferson Smith than with him. Yet, there's a sense of articulacy and reason in his mannerisms that I genuinely admire. It makes him look like a capable and knowledgeable comrade who cooperated better as a fellow politician with similar like-minded and conscientious goals than as a potential husband. In addition, I caught on to how he might have been one of the reporters who mocked and belittled Smith upon his entry into Washington, D.C. If that's the case, then this change of attitude and alliance added weight to his character and made him feel more awesome.

 

What also intrigued me about this movie was how articulate and astute the child characters were. Whether it's U.S. Senator Hubert 'Happy' Hopper's children, the boys in Jefferson Smith's home state, or any of the Senate kids, like Richard Jones, I find it cute yet astonishing how manageable the children were in this film and how, for all their youth, they're not naive or inexperienced, potentially. Jefferson Smith looked like he had the experience and knowledge to back him up, but the children seemed aware enough of what was going on to chip in and offer suggestions or lunge into action if they knew it would've somehow helped turn the tides in favor of whomever they rooted for.

 

Originally, I did not remember Joseph Paine's daughter, Susan Paine, at all. But watching her again, the idea that she was one of, if not the, most attractive women Jefferson Smith laid eyes on when he went to Washington D.C. only to later participate in a ploy against Jefferson Smith showcases just what type of people one should watch out for when dealing with someone and someplace so corrupted. Saunders saw this coming from a mile away, and while Smith fell for that trap, that would've made his eventual rise into power more awe-inspiring.

 

Let's also discuss the story, for that also contributed to the film's legacy. As I explained, it conveyed the true essence of America: fighting for the American Dream and keeping it alive in the face of corruption and whatever may hinder it.



Ironically, when 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' came out in 1939, many people, primarily those from Washington D.C., were appalled at how negatively they thought the film portrayed the American government. They didn't like how it was portrayed as anything but righteous, and that having Jefferson Smith be the only righteous politician willing to risk his career to set the record straight was seen as a possible jab at the American government when it was supposed to be portrayed as a respected government as opposed to an imperfect one.

 

However, here's the thing. Throughout the 85 years that this film has been around, we have seen countless other nefarious instances from the White House since then, including Richard Nixon with the Watergate scandal, Bill Clinton with his affairs with Monica Lewinsky, and the constant battles that unfolded concerning presidents like George W. Bush, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden. No matter who got to sit in the White House, it's all viewed as one long, continuous battle to see who will reign supreme between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, and everyone who's even had the honor – or dishonor – of being called an American politician.

 

What is the smart, righteous way to go? What is the wrong way to go? What counts as underhanded tactics, and what are worthy acts to pursue?

 

Every time we see the news, these catastrophic occurrences have only become sadly commonplace nowadays, and this movie predicted such nefarious activities well in advance. So, 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' has been hailed as a classic for a reason.

 

But it's not just the story and its relevance. The acting is another factor in why this movie expressed such artistic muscle.

 

James Stewart did a remarkable job as Jefferson Smith. Given his character's background and aspirations from back home, he honed his character's sense of naïveté, only for Smith's newfound position in power to show that for all his naïveté and humble background, Smith had enough political know-how to know what must be done and what must be recited to set down the law or whatever's right under the name of the American Dream, the U.S. Constitution and the like. Once Smith dove headfirst into the more heated essences of being a politician, James Stewart unleashed his inner rage and remorse as his undeterred spirit kept him going and prompted him to launch into the face of corruption until things were set right by him. You could feel his inner drive pushing him forward no matter what friends or enemies he made along the way, and no matter what happened, no matter who was in charge, he would've stopped at nothing until the follies of his opponents' acts were unveiled and exposed to the rest of the world. One of James Stewart's crowning achievements in this film occurred during his filibuster scene, where his confidence and comfortable position allowed Jefferson Smith to speak his heart out until he unleashed every semblance of human dignity and Americana that he could've whipped out. Impressively, Stewart's acting only intensified a bit when Smith's body began to give out at the end of his filibuster, leaving him physically worn out and on the brink of collapse, even if Mr. Smith's mind and soul showed no signs of faltering along the way. Who wouldn't want to follow Jefferson Smith's lead and try to save everybody from the depths of temptation and evil the same way?

 

Let's shift now onto Jean Arthur. Her voice sounded a tad unlike what you'd expect from an admittedly pretty lady like her, and her sassiness in character was just irresistible. But it also contributed to her comedic essence as it did to her character's respectability. There's a sense that she was so accustomed to her job that she'd become a standard by-the-books lady regarding life in Washington D.C., even if her collective regard for it wore off. It only honed her sense of professionalism as a secretary since her slightly mile-a-minute way of talking demonstrated her commitment, only to slowly but surely start to loosen up the longer she spent with Jefferson Smith. So, while her character may not be the most complex female character around – I mean, you do have Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind, which also came out in 1939, I might add – she still displayed enough good inflections to make her an appealing and standout female co-lead.

 

I was also amazed by Claude Rains' performance as Joseph Paine. Every time he spoke as a professional politician, Rains demonstrated Paine's lack of thoughtfulness and care for other people by speaking his mind as he was presumably expected to in his position. At first, Paine continued to do so when speaking with Jim Taylor and especially Jefferson Smith. When Paine unveiled his true colors to Smith, it seemingly cemented his commitment to the unscrupulous deeds and methods he enacted under the name of politics while propelling Smith deeper into the chaos surrounding the dam plans. However, when things gradually got ugly between Smith and Taylor concerning his plans for the dam, Rains slowly but surely expressed a glimmer of hesitation from underneath Paine's hardened shell to play a part in his causes, especially as he was on the verge of believing what Smith was saying and convincing him to believe. Yet, his experiences prevented him from reaching that point, no matter how much Paine wanted to change his mind. All it took from Smith was to show him his ways of setting things right, and only then would it have put Paine in a position where he had to think hard about where he stood in politics. So, Claude Rains sells it as the Senator here.

 

Edward Arnold may not have been at his most bombastic or flashiest every time he played Jim Taylor, but that doesn't hide the subtle semblances of uncompromising cruelty and cunning conveyed as he spoke or was around. He displayed the tenors of a politician, but his careful tone and choices of words had it where he would've made any appointee into another one of his unsuspecting henchmen ready to do his bidding, no matter how far it strayed from what was generally acceptable throughout Washington D.C. and the United States of America, even if it all concerned something like the development of a dam.


L to R: Diz Moore and Clarissa Saunders

As I stated, I found Diz Moore to be arrogant and slightly funny at first, only to come across as more confident and knowledgeable, and it might be thanks to Thomas Mitchell's performance. After starting off sounding like a standoffish husband wannabe, I respected the general professionalism and compatibility he expressed. It may not have been one of the most robust I've seen in the movie, but he proved his worth when he allowed Moore's intellect, not his arrogance, to guide him and his friends through all the political chaos.

 

The President of the Senate did not say or do much throughout the film; he only stood in his seat and watched all the bickering that went on in the Senate until he had to interject and either set the courtroom at ease or respond to someone else's complaints. However, the actor playing this character, Harry Carey, conveyed his character with such magnificence and careful observation and judgment of the circumstances erupting before him that his emotional disengagement in what's being presented to him only added to his rationality as a character. Only when he expressed some slight approval or disapproval with the cases presented before him or with the people arguing for or against him, especially Jefferson Smith, did the actor come forth to let his true personality shine through with his expressions and glances toward others. It even felt complimented by how he knew when to respond to anyone who acted out of order to signify his potential experience in dealing with matters like this. His performance was so good that he was nominated for an Oscar for his work in this film, and it shows.

 

It only gets even more interesting. One of the most prominent aspects of the movie that continually grew on me is the dynamics between good and evil.

 

With 'It's a Wonderful Life,' whenever I think back on George Bailey and Mr. Potter, I almost can't look at Bailey's and the rest of Bedford Falls' tolerance of Mr. Potter without questioning it. If they knew that Mr. Potter's been up to no good for so long, wouldn't there only have been so long they can tolerate his actions before they feel enough is enough, kick him out of office – not to mention, give him his just desserts – and have the right people take his place, like George Bailey? I know that as is, it makes for a more intimate experience, especially when evaluating how George Bailey upheld what he believed were the right causes for his hometown. But their methods of putting up with Mr. Potter's antics did rub me the wrong way a bit.

 

With 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,' however, the reason that not everybody fought against Jim Taylor was more evident: a good chunk of Washington D.C. society was either morally inept anyway or under Jim Taylor's influence.

 

Nevertheless, Jefferson Smith not only caught on to the devious methods throughout Washington D.C. but was willing to fight against this mentality from top to bottom. But to get to my point, both 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' respond to cruelty with intolerance. But whereas 'Wonderful Life' does so through fortitude, what draws me to 'Washington' is how it does so through defiance, but never rashly or to a point where it looks at things only in black and white; that's what Joseph Paine and possibly Diz Moore are there for.

 

But that's not the only thing concerning morality and picking fights that I love about this film.

 

At first, Jefferson Smith responded to evil and corruption the way I'd wager anyone would have responded: by charging right at the culprits like a bull seeing red. Of course, the movie gradually demonstrates how there are many more ways to fight against evil and wear it down outside of just through physical means and that it's the strength of the mind fighting through intellectual means, your guts, and your words that make a world of difference. And it makes it look as if those retaliating physically, like with Jim Taylor and his forces, are harming their reputation more than they are helping it. In fact, the idea of Jim Taylor saying that they were willing to do whatever it took to bring Jefferson Smith down, even if it brought down their reputation with it, there's a sense that I saw that as political suicide. Even if his forces and means to stack up against Jefferson Smith made them look like they were about to win in the end, they still seemed like dead men through their means. And I will admit, even Jim Taylor's methods of pruning the opposition to maintain his smear campaign against Jefferson Smith through violence got to a point where, rather than just being intimated by it, it made me feel as if reacting against this onslaught with equal violence in return looked more appropriate.

 

The movie never says that fighting against evil through physical means is automatically right or wrong, but what amazes me is how the film paints such retaliations, even those such as what I contemplated during the climax, with a twinge of temptation to them, like it could be stimulating and give off an adrenaline rush when attempting to get even with someone even if the results could be more unpredictable or fruitless than they seem. Because of this, the odds stacked against Jefferson Smith and the severity of the battles unfolding from therein were stimulating.

 

Also, is it just me, or was the movie clever about playing with the urges of physical violence by having Mr. Smith do it in the beginning and then Jim Taylor and his forces near the end?

 

Let's also pay attention to the scale of such battles. While I understand the praise for 'It's a Wonderful Life' for highlighting the contributions one man can make for his society, the idea of watching a similarly humble but strong-willed man rising to the occasion and stopping evil dead in their tracks in the form of corrupt politicians whose actions were about to lay waste to settlements back home adds more size and an almost epic scope to the story. Though the subject of the characters' goals was simplistic, there's a sense that their actions could have had significant butterfly effects not just on their fellow citizens back home but also on their whole country, like there was so much more at stake than what would've been dealt with in a humble town like Bedford Falls alone.

 

Speaking of which, many movies or stories with a hero and villain have it where the hero starts in a regular phase, only to be brought down for a good chunk of time by the villain, and then the hero rises and takes the villain down. Or, in cases like 'It's a Wonderful Life,' the hero continually becomes the butt of the joke over and over again until he either succumbs to it or emerges happy and content.



But in this film? Even though the hero, Jefferson Smith, was a naïve newcomer to the Senate and the villains were elite politicians, the great lengths they both went through to get what they wanted caused them to butt heads whether they were even in the same room or not. The result is what I see as a mental equivalent of blindfolded chess, nay, a tug of war.

 

  • Mr. Smith goes to Washington awestruck by it, but then he's made a fool of in the press.

  • He responds by drafting his bill for the National Boys' Camp, but then he catches wind of Jim Taylor's plans for the dam and of Joseph Paine's treachery.

  • He returns to the U.S. Senate to make his iconic filibuster, but then Jim Taylor responds midway with a smear campaign.

  • Smith's friends try to put in a good word for him…

 

Well, let me say this first.

 

The longer Jefferson Smith dove deep into the chaos surrounding the dam plans, the more likely he was to be surrounded by all the corrupt politicians in office who tried to bring him down to make an example of him and expose him as a fraud despite his righteous intentions. Regardless of what Smith dealt with, however, though he was not without his contemplations to give up, he, especially with the help of Clarissa Saunders, rose to the occasion, stepped back into the U.S. Senate, and delivered one of arguably the most defining cinematic moments of filibusters you'll ever see. Jefferson Smith went on a rant for 24 hours straight about his convictions for the campground back home, why it's so important to himself and his fellow Americans, and how he could demonstrate that such humble beginnings and how to follow through with them are all it takes to make the impossible possible in the United States of America, all while quoting the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, among other things.

 

Of course, because everybody was out to stop Jefferson Smith from delivering his arguments all the way through, it led to one of the most frighteningly insane moments in the film, where Jim Taylor had all the newspaper businesses from his state smear Jefferson Smith's campaign and make him look like a fraud, even if it meant – I wish I was making this up, too – violent retaliations against those who opposed them. Taylor's forces responded throughout the state by hosing down incoming parties supporting Jefferson Smith and interfering with the boys' deliveries of their pro-Smith papers, going from running over the boys' paper wagons to running over…the boys themselves.

 

Seriously, what the hell kind of America is this where the higher-ups, with all their power, can voluntarily perform mass assault and borderline murder for their political gain when it's obvious it's only going to come back and bite them instead?

 

It felt less like something out of Frank Capra and more like something George Orwell would've written. As I demonstrated earlier, the mentality apparent from Jim Taylor and his affiliates was what brought the Roman Empire down, and the idea that such supposedly civilized battles would have resorted to animalistic violence, even if out of desperation, only amplifies the frightening likelihood of it bringing down governments in an instant. It demonstrates the dark underbelly that goes with American corruption in politics and that this is what happens when the American politicians' methods of maintaining power rear their ugly heads.

 

Such an outcome affecting America would eventually have been addressed and explored to chilling effects in films like Alex Garland's Civil War, but that's a story for another review.

 

In addition, this film's demonstrations of good fighting against evil not only feel more exciting than the usual three-act structure we're used to, but it demonstrates how one side of the battle isn't willing to give up without a fight, and both the hero and the villain are evenly matched and willing to outdo the other in a struggle that would have lasted forever until only one stood victorious. If a story has it where only the hero or the villain is the most capable of the two, it would be either too boring or too mean-spirited. But having the heroes and villains be equally competent would only bear fruit and add to the suspense, the characters' intrigue, the story's intelligence, and the movie's sense of energy.

 

Long story short, the battles of wits that unfurled between good and evil throughout the movie were nothing short of overwhelming.



Another part of the film that I fell in love with, outside of everything I laid out so far, would be the shots. It was nice to see the interior shots of the U.S. Senate and the offices of Washington D.C., but other times, the movie displayed a sense of atmosphere that gave off an enormous spectacle to Washington D.C. Even compared to the home Jefferson Smith left behind for his newfound position, the shots made it so that he'd have entered new territory that was huge and largely dependent on everything its participants set out to do for the good of their country.

 

However, among the most stimulating shots in the film is when Jefferson Smith walked into the Lincoln Memorial. The memorial was grand in and of itself, but seeing Mr. Smith stand inside and gaze in awe over the majesty of Abraham Lincoln's sculpture, for he abided by his principles as 'Honest Abe' had, enveloped me into a trance-like state of mind that only reminds me worshippingly of why the United States of America was established with what it started with and why it's unique enough to be worth maintaining.

 

However, this film would've been perfect if it hadn't been for, in my opinion, the most aggravating part of it: the ending. Now, I'm not talking about how the film ended story-wise; that was incredible.

 

Here's what I'm trying to say.

 

Near the end, as Jefferson Smith was talking himself into exhaustion from his filibuster, he passed out, prompting Joseph Paine to quickly leave the office, and then, in the next minute, a gunshot went off nearby. That was by Paine, who attempted to commit suicide only for people who were nearby to thankfully stop him from going through with it. And once his suicide was interrupted, he ran back into the office and shouted out loud to everybody to hear…

 

Expel me! Expel me, not him! … I committed it! Every word that boy said is the truth!

 

So then, after over half an hour of suspense, one-upping, corruption, and attacks, Joseph Payne finally came clean about his nefarious deeds with Jim Taylor, owned up to his mistakes, and absolved Jefferson Smith of anything he was assumed to have done wrong, showcasing Joseph Paine's strengths as a character. Despite us not seeing it, it also left me convinced that everything Jim Taylor established in the movie was about to blow up in his face since Paine just ratted him out. And because everything Paine said was the final bowtie in Jefferson Smith's quest as a newly-appointed senator, I thought, 'Look at this! Finally, everything Jefferson Smith set out to do in politics is paying off. I can't wait to see the look on Smith's face when he comes to and sees what he has accomplished!'

 

Then, about 40 seconds later…



That's it? After all this buildup leading to this big payoff, the movie is over in a snap, just like that?

 

After engaging in American politics at their ugliest for so long throughout the movie, letting it go on for at least another five minutes would have given the audience a chance to celebrate Jefferson Smith's victorious charge against Jim Taylor and the film a chance to decompress after engaging in such heated political battles for an extended period of time.

 

But that's not the only thing about the ending that's driving me crazy.

 

Look at this trailer of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and see if you notice anything you don't recognize from the film. Among them are scenes from a parade going on downtown with Jefferson Smith in the car. That tells me that this came from the aftereffects of Jefferson Smith's victorious campaign against Jim Taylor. But now, those are the only parts of the movie from the trailers that did not end up in the film.



Going further, the original script of 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' demonstrated what happened after Jefferson Smith's victorious campaign. It showed Jefferson Smith parading in his hometown, just like in the trailers, and introducing his mother from back home to Joseph Paine as they finally settled down together.

 

So, with this in mind, why did they cut that footage out of the movie? Outside of being potentially anticlimactic, which I don't believe it is?

 

It may be a one-in-a-hundred chance, but if 'Little Shop of Horrors" original ending and even 'When Love is Gone' from 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' came back after years of limbo and were finally inserted back into their movies, why not this ending too? If it ever comes to pass, I would be interested to see what other people, including myself, think of this film with the ending added back in. Either people would love the ending for giving the film a little time to breathe after so much craziness, or they might look at this and say that the movie ended at just the right spot.

 

Is that a big deal, though? Regardless of how the movie is presented, and after seeing 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' only a couple of times, everything about the film worked well and worked beyond well. Its sense of realism is debatable, and its cutoff point feels too abrupt for my liking, but everything else about the film, from the story to the acting, the music, and the shots, was all pitch-perfect. What makes it even better is that it took some risks to set an example of what America truly needs with a clear conscience, a firm drive, and qualities of an inner rebel that I cannot help but look up to, the results of which make this movie go on to age like the finest wine on Earth, for better or for worse. For that reason, this is not only my favorite movie from Frank Capra but also one of my all-time favorite movies in general. That's how much I revere 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' the longer I let it sit.

 

Every government, kingdom, and empire had some situations before where they were threatened not only from without but also from within, like they were threatened by some poison that could have coursed its way through its veins and tarnished, if not left in ruin, what each ruling system was established with in the first place. And nothing combats such poison more efficiently than an antidote. Characters like Jefferson Smith and arguably movies like 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' count as that type of antidote. Frank Capra, James Stewart, Claude Rains, Sidney Buchman, everyone who was nominated for Oscars for their work in this movie – as was Lewis R. Foster, who won his – didn't get such recognition for nothing.

 

Happy 4th of July, everyone, and may the righteous always reign supreme throughout the land of the free and the home of the brave!

 

My Rating

A low A+



Additional Thoughts

 

The Senate page, Richard Jones, might be more familiar as an actor than we'd think. While Richard Jones is the character's name, the actor's name turns out to be Dickie Jones. And if his voice sounds familiar, that is because, a mere four months after 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' came out, he would've lent his voice to Pinocchio in Disney's take on the story. It IS a small world after all!

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