Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

March 5, 2010

You fight for the lost causes harder than any other.

Jimmy Stewart plays Jefferson Smith, selected as a stooge to be a temporary Senator for an unnamed state, so that Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold) can get his dam plan through. Smith, though, is an innocent with a pure belief in the principles of the United States.

Hokey as all hell, with stirring music over scenes of famous monuments, with a patriotism it wears on both sleeves, there’s so much about this movie that just shouldn’t work…

And yet. Stewart is so charming, Claude Rains (playing the secretly corrupt fellow-senator Joe Paine) so believable and the whole thing done with such a purity of purpose – it’s cynical about politicians, without being cynical about humanity, that it’s hard not to love it. I tend to flip-flop over the believability of the denouement, but I think on balance it’s /just about/ OK. Jean Arthur, playing Saunders, is great when she’s being sharp, and slightly less good when doing the 1930’s/40’s Hollywood-close-up-love-interest stuff. As the former is much more enjoyable than the latter, that’s probably the right way around.

Mr Smith remains one of my favourite films, though this project is putting pressure on it.

Leave a Reply