|Frank Capra Director||previously directed You Can't Take It With You|
A small town man becomes a senator and discovers corruption in Washington.
1 More Quote
I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too.
|Lewis R. Foster||Story|
|Myles Connolly||contributor to screenplay construction and dialogue|
|Jean Arthur||Clarissa Saunders|
|James Stewart||Jefferson Smith|
|Claude Rains||Senator Joseph Harrison Paine|
|Edward Arnold||Jim Taylor|
|Guy Kibbee||Governor Hubert Hopper|
|Thomas Mitchell||Diz Moore|
|Eugene Pallette||Chick McGann|
|Beulah Bondi||Ma Smith|
|H.B. Warner||Senate Majority Leader - Agnew|
|Harry Carey||President of the Senate - Henry|
|See Full Credits|
After a US Senator dies while in office the governor of the state he represented now has the task of choosing his replacement. The governor, Hubert Hopper, goes to his political boss, Jim Taylor. Taylor owns or has influence over most of the state's media and therefore has the greatest impact over the elections. Taylor forces Hopper to pick someone who will do only what Taylor says, but political committees want someone to reform the Senate. Hopper is confused and can't make a decision and flips a coin, when it lands on its side stuck on a newspaper story about an up and comer named Smith. Hopper decides Smith is his choice, considering his clean image and gullible nature.
Smith begins his journey to Washington and his fellow senator Joseph Paine teaches Smith how to be a senator himself. Smith recalls Paine's days with Smith's father right before his dad was found dead at his desk. When Smith arrives to Washington his idealism for DC causes him to wander off and eventually, and shyly, finding his office. With Smith so naive about how DC runs, Paine tries to distract him by telling him to propose his own bill.
The now Senator Smith does just that and proposes a federal loan to buy some land and build a national boys' camp where kids can learn about the idealism of America. Donations from all across the US pour in but Taylor's political machine isn't very happy. The proposed site for the camp is already part of a dam project designed to increase cash flow to the Taylor political machine and is backed by Senator Paine.
Paine initially refuses to try and take down Smith but once Taylor reminds Paine who put him in power and who can take it away, Paine concedes. The political machine goes to work and accuses Smith of wrongdoing including that Smith owns the land that the government would have to purchase for his camp, giving him profits. Smith is so surprised by Paine's betrayal he runs away.
Smith's secretary, Clarissa Saunders, who has been helping Smith all this time goes out to search for him, finding Smith at the Lincoln Memorial. She convinces him that he does have the power still to prevent his own removal as Senator and he can fight the corruption through a filibuster. Smith talks non-stop as Saunders works behind the scenes to rally his supporters.
As Smith approaches collapse the other Senators begin to listen, Smith has forced them all to stay in the chamber through Senate rules. But the Taylor political machine won't stop, Paine arrives with bins and bins of letters and telegrams from Smith's home state of people demanding he stop his filibuster and leave the Senate. This news nearly breaks Smith's will but a small smile from the President of the Senate encourages him to fight for what is right. But Smith collapses, as everyone rushes to his aide, Paine is distraught with guilt. He leaves the chamber and attempts suicide with a gun. Paine is stopped, and he bursts back into the Senate chambers. He confesses to all his wrong-doing, reveals Taylor's scheme, and proclaims Smith's innocence.
The movie was original screened at Constitution Hall in Washington DC in 1939 to about 4,000 attendees. Initially the movie was labeled and reviewed as anti-American and pro Communism by newspapers and politicians because of how is showed the corrupt US government. One journalist even wanted the Senate to pass a law that would allow theatre owners to refuse to show any film that wasn't "in the best interest of the country." In Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Fascist Italy the film was banned. Once Nazi occupied France announced its plan to ban American films most theater's played Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as it's last film before the ban.
Since then the film has been considered one of the best films ever made and a classic. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Actor, for Jimmy Stewart, and Best Director, for Frank Capra. And won Best Writing in an original story for Lewis R. Foster.