Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) – Frank Capra

DK Canada brings me this Frank Capra classic from its What Else to Watch list following its recommendation of It’s A Wonderful Life.

THIS movie makes me regret the fact that schools, as a rule, no longer have civics classes. It needs to be seen, as it shows the good and the bad of democracy, and James Stewart (I prefer this pairing of actor and director to It’s a Wonderful Life) at the film’s centre is nothing short of perfect.

Stewart plays Jefferson Smith a newly commissioned senator, a man who is aware of the history of his country, and the beauty of Washington, and the enduring ideology behind it, and the founding of the nation he loves.

He is seen as naive, but he’s simply earnest, and wants to make his state, his country, and the world a better place.

Shepherded by a friend of his father, Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains) he begins to have an inkling of the things he wants to do in the capitol. With a somewhat cynical assistant at his side, Saunders (Jean Arthur), he comes up with a plan.

In his home state he over sees a boys’ club, and he wants to introduce a bill that will give them a camp, and he even has a way for it to pay for itself.

But very quickly he finds that honesty is not the coin of the realm in modern D.C., and that the history he holds dear means nothing to some of those around him.

Stewart As Mr Smith

He’s framed, dragged through the mud, and vilified, as Powers That Be, the rich, fat cats who own the politicians and the newspapers find that Smith’s plans and visions conflict with their own.

As the story unfurls we are introduced to some of the games played in the capitol, the nature of the filibuster, and the fact that real power lays with the people, if they recognise it, and that the young are the voice of the nation, for they are the leaders of tomorrow.

This film seems even more important now than it could have when it was released. Everything we see in today’s era is played out in some form in this story, though not by name, they are recognisable though.

If we had more earnest people serving in the government, it may not be so weighed down in corporations, lobbyists, corruption, and untrustworthy leaders of all political stripes.

The film walked away with an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, but was nominated to a slew more, including Best Picture (losing to Gone With the Wind).

This is a beautiful film, and since it had been so long since I’d seen it, it was like coming to it with fresh eyes, and it is stunning, amazing, and needs to be seen by and all. In fact, lets bring back civics classes and make sure films of this nature get added to the curriculum.

This and so many other amazing titles can be found in DK Books’ brilliant The Movie Book. Watch a classic tonight!

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