Saturday, November 22, 2014

Stubs – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, Guy Kibbee Directed by Frank Capra. Produced by Frank Capra Screenplay by Sidney Buchman. Based on the unpublished story "The Gentleman from Montana" by Lewis R. Foster. Run Time: 129 minutes. U.S. Black and White, Drama, Political, Comedy.

Quick, name the most controversial film of 1939 at the time of its release? Now I’m sure we would all say Gone with the Wind, with its depiction of slavery and blacks in general. But not when it was released. The answer we were looking for is Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; but more on the controversy later.

The story the film was based on had been around before Columbia Pictures bought it. Both Paramount and MGM had submitted the story to the Hays Office of the Production Code Administration for approval in January 1938. Joseph Breen, the director of the PCA had warned Paramount upon their submission "we would urge most earnestly that you take serious counsel before embarking on the production of any motion picture based on this story. It looks to us like one that might well be loaded with dynamite, both for the motion picture industry, and for the country at large."

Rouben Mamoulian was supposedly interested in directing the film, but his involvement disappeared quickly as did Paramount’s and MGM’s. Perhaps they were put off by Breen’s reaction. Columbia Pictures became interested in the story as a vehicle for Ralph Bellamy, with Harold Wilson slated to produce. However, when Capra was brought on as director, the idea changed to a sequel of the very successful of Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936), a screwball comedy directed by Capra and starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur. The plan was to call it Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington, but Cooper wasn’t available, so Capra thought of James Stewart and Arthur. They had worked together the year before in Capra’s Academy Award Winning Best Picture, You Can’t Take It WithYou (1938). Stewart had to be borrowed for the film from MGM, his home studio at the time.

Like Paramount and MGM before it, Columbia submitted the story to the Hays Office. Once again, Breen warned Columbia that the picture needed to emphasize that "the Senate is made up of a group of fine, upstanding citizens, who labor long and tirelessly for the best interests of the nation," as opposed to `"Senator Joseph Paine" and his cohorts.

Breen’s opinion changed radically after reading Sidney Buchman’s script. He wrote a letter to Will H. Hays, the President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (forerunner to today’s MPAA) in which he stated: "It is a grand yarn that will do a great deal of good for all those who see it and, in my judgment, it is particularly fortunate that this kind of story is to be made at this time. Out of all Senator Jeff's difficulties there has been evolved the importance of a democracy and there is splendidly emphasized the rich and glorious heritage which is ours and which comes when you have a government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people.'”

But even though Breen’s opinion might have changed, not everyone wanted to be associated with the project. The Boy Scouts of America wanted no part of what they called “Mr. Capra's reform movement," and Capra therefore had to use the fictitious name of the Boy Rangers.

Shooting began in early April, 1939. Capra and his crew went to Washington, D.C. to film background material and to study the Senate Chamber, which was replicated, full scale, in precise detail on the Columbia lot. James D. Preston, a former superintendent of the Senate press gallery, acted as Capra's technical advisor for the Senate set and political protocol. A report at the time referred to the production utilizing the New York Street Set at the Warner Brothers lot near the end of their shooting schedule which wrapped on July 7th.

Political boss James Taylor (Edward Arnold) has big plans to perpetrate a scam against at Willett Creek by getting the federal government to build a dam there. But plans go awry when Senator Foley dies unexpectedly. There is no time for mourning as the spending bill, with the dam buried in it, is about to come up for a vote. Taylor needs the Governor to appoint someone who won’t ask too many questions.

"Nosey" (Charles Lane) calls his paper to report the death of Senator Foley.

Taylor has all the politicians in the state in his back pocket, including Governor Hubert Hopper (Guy Kibbee) and Senator Joesph Paine (Claude Rains). Hopper can’t make a move without Taylor’s approval. And while Taylor has a particular candidate, the public, represented by a citizen’s committee, wants someone else and Hopper bends to public will, which draws Taylor’s ire.

However, the governor’s sons have a different candidate in mind, Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), the patriotic leader of the Boy Rangers and a hero who put out a forest fire by himself. Hopper sees Smith as a way out and appoints him to replace Foley. He convinces Taylor that the naïve Smith could be controlled.

Gov. Hopper (Guy Kibbee) introduces his choice to fill the vacancy, Jefferson Smith (James Stewart).

It is only after the fact that Paine realizes he knows Smith and was his father’s best friend. Jeff’s father ran a small paper that fought for the lost cause. Paine, who was a lawyer back then, would fight the good fight along with him. Then one day, the elder Smith was killed in the fight, shot in the back at his typewriter.

When they arrive in Washington, accompanied by Taylor’s stooge, Chick McGann (Eugene Pallette), they are met by some reporters, including “Nosey” (Charles Lane), who we had seen at the beginning of the film announcing Foley’s untimely passing. But despite the best laid plans to introduce Smith to the press, they can’t control him. As soon as Smith sees the Capitol building he is overwhelmed and walks away from the group and finds himself on a tour bus. Seeing the Lincoln Memorial and reading the President’s words that are chiseled into the walls strike Smith about the importance of his job.

Smith finds the Lincoln Memorial humbling.

Waiting for Smith to arrive at his office are Foley’s secretary, Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), and a cynical reporter, “Diz” Moore (Thomas Mitchell). Jefferson is five hours overdue when he finally comes through the door. Saunders almost chases him away before realizing he’s the new Senator.

Saunders (Jean Arthur) nearly chases Smith away from his office.

Saunders, as she’s called, and Diz both find Jefferson’s patriotic enthusiasm hokum. To fix his wagon, Saunders arranges for a press conference for Smith. He’s naïve, honest and forthcoming and is consequently made fun of in the papers, with photos and quotes taken out of context for maximum effect.

In a publicity still, Saunders, Smith and Diz (Thomas Mitchell) confer.

The next day, when Paine is to be sworn into office, one senator objects to his appointment, citing the newspaper stories as proof that Smith is not fit for office. But the President of the Senate (Harry Carey) won’t be party to the smear job and swears Smith into office. But Smith is outraged and hurt by his treatment in the press. He goes looking for the reporters who had made fun of him, slugging each one he finds. When he sees Nosey, he chases him into the National Press Club. There, Moore, Nosey and Sweeney Farrell (Jack Carson) tell him they think he is nothing more than an “honorary stooge” and is getting the treatment he thusly deserves.

In a publicity still, Sweeney Farrell (Jack Carson) helps hold back Smith from punching Nosey.

Hearing the truth hurts and Smith goes to see his mentor Senator Paine. There he makes the acquaintance of Paine’s daughter, Susan (Astrid Allwyn), whom he’d met briefly at the train station. She is pretty and sophisticated and makes Smith nervous when he’s around her. Paine convinces Smith that he should write a bill to establish the national Boy Rangers camp he’s been championing.

Excited, Smith goes back to his office to enlist Saunders’ help in writing it up. She tries to dissuade him with a lesson on how the Senate really works. Even if he can jump through all the hoops necessary to get his bill to the floor for a vote, the Senate will go into recess before the vote ever comes to pass. But Smith is enthralled by the challenge and Saunders resigns herself to help him. When Smith describes the 200 acres where he proposes to locate the camp grounds, Saunders recognizes it as the same place where Taylor plans to build his dam.

The next morning, Smith is excited about presenting his first bill for legislation. Saunders gives Moore a heads up about what will happen when Smith gets around to reading his bill to the floor. And no sooner does he utter the words Willett Creek, Chick jumps into action and calls Taylor.

Mr. Smith reads his proposed bill to start a Boy Rangers
camp to the Senate. Page Boy (Dickie James) proudly watches.

But despite Jeff’s nervousness, the other senators are receptive to his idea, with the exception of Paine, who is horrified. Not wanting to have Smith in the Senate the next day when the appropriation bill with the Willet Creek dam is discussed, Paine conspires to have his daughter Susan distract him for the day. Susan calls Saunders to help arrange the deception and Jeff is thrilled by Susan’s attention.

Saunders, however, is not happy with the way Jeff is being deceived and her role in that deception and gets drunk with Diz at dinner. She vows to quit her job and asks Diz to marry her. But when they go back to the office to get her things, Jeff is there, happy from his day with Susan. Saunders takes the opportunity to let Smith know what’s really going on before she leaves. Diz, realizing she’s too drunk to get married, takes her home.

At dinner with Diz, Saunders decides to quit her job and marry Diz. 

Smith, shocked by Saunders’ admission, goes to confront Paine, but Paine simply smooth-talks him. Alarmed, Taylor comes to Washington to twist Smith’s arm. Paine, who is also in the hotel room, doesn’t want any part of it and leaves out a side door. Taylor tries to tell Smith how things work. Taylor informs Smith that Paine works for him and offers a similar treatment for Smith if he plays it smart and doesn’t make waves.

Political boss James Taylor (Edward Arnold) comes to Washington to educate
Smith on how things really work. Taylor's stooge, Chick McMann (Eric Pallette), looks on.

But Smith doesn’t want to play ball and the next day, attempts to speak against the crooked bill. Not understanding the protocol, Smith yields the floor to Paine, who uses the opportunity to launch into an attack on Smith’s character, claiming Smith is using the boys camp for personal gain.

Smith's hero, Senator Paine (Claude Rains) leads the attack on him.

The allegations continue at a hearing before the Committee on Privileges and Elections. Hopper, Paine and others present phony evidence and lie about Jeff owning the land upon which he wants to build the camp. Jeff is so dumbfounded by Paine's lies that he cannot testify on his own behalf and decides to leave Washington.

Things get out of hand at Smith's hearing. He is dumbfounded by the lies told about him.

Bags packed, Jeff goes to the Lincoln Memorial, where Saunders finds him and convinces him not to give up and to attempt a filibuster to clear his name.

Saunders finds Smith, bags packed and ready to leave town at the Lincoln memorial.
She convinces him to stay and fight for his name and his cause.

H. V. Kaltenborn, a CBS radio correspondent in real life, is there the next morning to explain to us the rules of a filibuster, at least in 1939. As long as Smith remains talking on his feet and only yields for a question, he can hold the floor. (This is a really good device since I doubt very many people are up on U.S. Senate filibuster rules and they are important to the story.)

In a nice device, H.V. Kaltenborn, a real CBS radio correspondent,
is employed  to explain the rules of filibuster to the audience.

Before the Senate can vote to expel him, Smith gets recognized by the President of the Senate and launches into his filibuster, using the opportunity to reveal the truth about Taylor and Paine to the Senate, even as Paine continues trying to condemn him. The rest of the Senate doesn’t want to listen, but Jeff intends to talk until his news reaches his home state, and the people rise up against Taylor’s corrupt political machine.

But Taylor, who owns all the newspapers back home, organizes a massive campaign against Jeff. Many hours later, Saunders cheers up Jeff with a note telling him she loves him, and then calls his mother, telling her to enlist the Boy Rangers to spread the truth with their little four page paper. The boys publish and start to distribute their newspaper. There are protests on both sides, but Taylor’s men shut down the opposition, even going so far as harming some of the boys.

Taylor gets on the phones to lead the smear campaign against Smith back home.

Back at the Senate, Paine brings in 50,000 telegrams drummed up by Taylor, all of them urging Jeff to quit. Discouraged, Jeff resolves to keep fighting, but collapses from exhaustion after a nearly twenty-four hour filibuster. Paine breaks down, and after attempting suicide outside the senate chamber, confesses, saying that everything Jeff has said is true.

Everyone in the room cheers, Saunders jumps for joy and the film ends.

Smith is confronted by the 50,000 telegrams sent from his state urging him to quit.

Apparently, a slightly different ending was planned, one of which saw Smith and Saunders return to a hero’s welcome in his hometown and the implication that the two would wed and start a family. Perhaps clocking in at over two hours, Capra thought better of the anti-climatic ending and didn’t include it.

In an alternative ending, Smith returns home in triumph with Saunders.

The film had its premiere at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., on October 17, 1939, sponsored by the National Press Club, an event to which 4,000 guests were invited, including 45 senators. Apparently some senators in attendance did not appreciate how their institution was portrayed and in his autobiography, Name Above the Title, Capra claims several walked out of the screening. (News reports of the day are unclear about this, or whether senators yelled back at the screen during the film, which has also been reported. But it makes a good story.)

Senate Majority Leader Alben W. Barkley, a Democrat from Kentucky who would serve as Truman’s Vice-President, is quoted as calling the film "silly and stupid," and that it "makes the Senate look like a bunch of crooks." He also remarked that the film was “a grotesque distortion” of the Senate, “as grotesque as anything ever seen! Imagine the Vice President of the United States winking at a pretty girl in the gallery in order to encourage a filibuster!” Barkley thought the film “...showed the Senate as the biggest aggregation of nincompoops on record!” Thou seems to protest too much.

The Senate is said to have gotten retaliation as only a legislative body can with the punitive Neely Anti-Block Booking Bill (which in the late 1940s led to the breakup of the studio-owned theater chains and led to the decline of the film industry.) Punishing your critics is another great Senate tradition, I guess.

But outrage wasn’t limited to elected officials. Capra also claims in his book that after the film's general release, he and Harry Cohn, the President and Production Director at Columbia Pictures, received a cablegram from Joseph P. Kennedy, then the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. Kennedy claimed that the film would damage "America's prestige in Europe" and should therefore be withdrawn from European distribution.

Pete Harrison, a respected journalist and publisher of the motion picture trade journal, Harrison's Reports, suggested that the Senate pass a bill allowing theater owners to refuse to show films that “were not in the best interest of our country”.

Across the Atlantic, the film seemed to have the opposite effect. The film was banned in some countries, like Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain and Stalin's USSR, not places considered bastions of democracy. When a ban on American films was imposed in German occupied France in 1942, some theaters chose to show Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as the last movie before the ban went into effect. One theater owner in Paris reportedly screened the film nonstop for 30 days. So much for damaging American prestige, rather it showing it was the last act of rebellion against those who didn’t appreciate free speech.

Film critics didn’t go along with the condemnation. Frank S. Nugent, the film critic for the New York Times, wrote that Capra “is operating, of course, under the protection of that unwritten clause in the Bill of Rights entitling every voting citizen to at least one free swing at the Senate. Mr. Capra’s swing is from the floor and in the best of humor; if it fails to rock the august body to its heels — from laughter as much as from injured dignity — it won’t be his fault but the Senate’s, and we should really begin to worry about the upper house."

The film, made on a budget of $1.5 million, had a respectful boxoffice. While the numbers from back then are not considered as reliable as they are now, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is ranked as the 5th biggest film of 1939, behind the juggernaut of films, Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz and in line with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Jesse James.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington would be nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (one each for Harry Carey and Claude Rains), Best Art Direction, Best Music, Best Editing and Best Sound, winning only one for Best Original Story. The film is also considered to be one of Capra’s best films.

The film represents a darker view of the human condition for Capra as a filmmaker. The crazy optimism of You Can’t Take It With You has been replaced by a more sinister view of the world. One in which people will lie, cheat and steal to get what they want; a world view that is unfortunately more realistic. This dark view can also be seen in It’s A Wonderful Life (1946); George Bailey does try to kill himself when he sees no way out from his predicament and feels that his life has been a waste up to the moment Clarence, the Angel, arrives on the scene. Suicide as a premise for a Christmas film is pretty dark you have to admit.

But, like It’s A Wonderful Life, Capra still has a sense that the individual can make a difference; that a lost cause can be won if the individual is persistent enough. Jefferson Smith goes on a filibuster that somehow changes Senator Paine’s attitude and he breaks down and confesses all on the verge of getting away with it. I wish I could share this sentiment. My opinion of politicians is that they skate as close to the edge of corruption and deceit as they can and will, even if their hand is caught in the cookie jar on video, deny the truth in order to stay in office. But to paraphrase Woody Allen in Annie Hall, you try to make right in art what isn’t in real life.

James Stewart and Jean Arthur are reunited again, having been paired only the year before in You Can’t Take it With You. They seem to have good screen chemistry, but they would never be paired again on the big screen. While Stewart would go onto be the bigger star, Arthur was the more established actor at the time and received top-billing.

Despite their chemistry on screen, Stewart and Arthur never appeared again on screen.

Arthur had been in films since being discovered by Fox in the 1920s. She made her film debut in Cameo Kirby (1923), a film directed by John Ford. But she wasn’t at the time considered a good actress and was even replaced on The Temple of Venus (1923), a film that she was supposed to star in. But Arthur did not give up on acting.

She was signed by Action Pictures in 1924 and made over twenty westerns in two years there, making $25 a film. She also appeared in an uncredited part in Buster Keaton’s Seven Chances (1925). She kept getting acting jobs in films, but she wasn’t happy with the direction her career was going. Her break came in Warming Up (1928), Famous Players-Lasky’s first sound film, starring Richard Dix. The film was heavily promoted and Arthur received praise and a three year contract with the studio, which would soon become Paramount.

She started to get positive reviews for her acting in films like Party Wire (1935), Public Hero No. 1 (1935) and If Only You Can Cook (1935), but her big break came when Capra cast her in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). Her roles in such films as You Can’t Take it With You made her so popular that she was one of the four finalists for the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.

She would follow up Mr. Smith with performances in Only Angels Have Wings (1939) and Talk of the Town (1942) and The More the Merrier (1943), the latter for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She would retire when her contract with Columbia expired in 1944, coming back to star in A Foreign Affair (1948) and Shane (1953). In Mr. Smith, she is vivacious and funny, charming the audience with her presence as she does Dix Moore and, more importantly, Jefferson Smith.

While Stewart and Arthur carry the movie, one of the joys of watching older films is to see the supporting cast and character actors and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington has one of the better collections of such talent. Thomas Mitchell, who we wrote about in our review of Stagecoach (1939), is one of many who give superb performances in little roles. Mitchell seems to excel at playing drunks and heavy drinkers, something he would do to great effect as Uncle Billy in It’s A Wonderful Life.

Mitchell is one of several actors who would also appear in that classic film, besides Stewart. Beulah Bondi, who plays Ma Smith, would go onto to portray Ma Bailey. She would also play Stewart’s mother in two other films as well. H.B. Warner, the Senate Majority Leader, would play the drunken druggist Mr. Gower. And Charles Lane, who plays the reporter, Nosey, was Potter’s rent collector.

Claude Rains is one of my favorite supporting actors. While I’m very partial to his performance in Casablanca (1942), I also have enjoyed his work in such films as Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Notorious (1946), The Unsuspected (1947) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He appeared in one British film, Build Thy House (1920), before emigrating to act on Broadway in 1920 at the age of 31.

In his next film, Rains was cast in the lead as The Invisible Man (1933), directed by James Whale, the director of Frankenstein. It was his distinctive voice that won him the part, since most of the film he is either wrapped in bandages or is invisible. The film, based on a novel by H.G. Welles, is a bit over the top with its special effects and frankly Rains’ laugh gets to be like fingernails on the chalkboard before the film is through.

Rains would find steady work in Hollywood, usually in a supporting role. He played the father, Adam Lemp, in the Four Daughters/Wives/Mothers series of films with the Lane Sisters. He portrayed Sir John Talbot in The Wolf Man (1941), as well as a string of films including Moontide (1942), Now, Voyager (1942), Casablanca. He would also appear in the Casablanca redux, Passage to Marseille (1944). But he wasn’t always cast to show off his talent, including what I thought was a dud, Phantom of the Opera (1943).

While the role of the President of the Senate is small, the actor, Harry Carey, had been one of cinema’s first superstars. He made his debut in D.W. Griffith’s Bill Sharkey’s Last Game (1909). He was one of the earliest Western film heroes, appearing as the character Cheyenne Harry in a series of films that ran from A Knight of the Range (1916) to Acres Wild (1936). He starred in John Ford’s first feature, Straight Shooting (1918). One of his last films was Red River (1948), in which he played Mr. Melville, who buys the cattle at the end of the drive. The film was released posthumously, as Carey had died in 1947 at the age of 69.

The film features some of the heavyweights of supporting actors: Edward Arnold, Guy Kibbee and Eugene Pallette. All three are those faces you see in films from this era, but whose names you might not know.

Arnold, who plays James Taylor, had once been considered a leading man in Hollywood. Despite being labeled "box office poison" in 1938 by an exhibitor publication  along with the likes of Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Fred Astaire and Katharine Hepburn. Arnold never seemed to lack work, as he appeared in over 150 films usually in a supporting role. Politically active, Arnold lost a closely contested election for Los Angeles County Supervisor and said at the time that perhaps actors were not suited to run for political office.

Guy Kibbee was known for playing jovial and slightly daft characters in such earlier 30s  films as The Crowd Roars (1932); 42nd Street (1933); Footlight Parade (1933); and The Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933). He would also appear in Captain Blood (1935); Our Town (1940); Girl Crazy (1943); Fort Apache (1948) and 3 Godfathers (1948).

Eugene Pallette began his career as a thin and athletic actor, appearing in such films as Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916), but success didn’t come until he gained weight. He appeared in Hal Roach films, including a few Laurel and Hardy films. His distinctive raspy voice served him well with the coming of sound and he appeared in supporting roles throughout the 30s and 40s, appearing in such films as My Man Godfrey (1936), Topper (1937), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Young Tom Edison (1940), The Lady Eve (1941) and The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941).

In 1946, he sort of shot his career in the foot; when fearing the world was about to come to an end, he retreated to a fortress he had built on a mountain side in Oregon. Stocked with cattle, a canning plant and a lumber mill, Pallette was waiting for the atomic bomb to be dropped and waited two years before deciding it wasn’t going to happen. He returned to Hollywood, but never appeared in another film.

William Demarest, Uncle Charley to a generation of TV viewers, had a career that spanned back to silent films. Perhaps best known for being one of Preston Sturges’ stock company, appearing in some of that filmmaker's better known films: The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels (1942) and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944). He also had a part in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and Viva Las Vegas (1964). But Demarest is still perhaps best known for his role on My Three Sons (1965 – 1972).

Ruth Donnelly has a small, but familiar part in Mr. Smith. She plays Guy Kibbee’s wife, something she did before in Footlight Parade and again in Wonder Bar (1934). Originally a Broadway actress, Donnelly was discovered by George M. Cohan, who cast her in some of his productions. During her career she had several memorable roles: Mary Brian's domineering mother in Hard to Handle (1933); and Edward G. Robinson's wife in A Slight Case of Murder (1938). She would also appear in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and later The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) and The Snake Pit (1948).

One last name to mention, Dickie James, who played the page boy who helped Smith get settled when he first got to the Senate and latter displayed his Boy Ranger pin to show his support for Jeff’s filibuster. A successful child actor, James is perhaps best remembered as the voice of Pinocchio in that Walt Disney film from 1940, which proved to be that year’s biggest film.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a mix of romantic comedy and political drama, depicting corruption at the highest levels of the Legislature. Every politician in Smith’s home state seems to be in debt to James Taylor’s political machine. And that influence allows him to place a piece of legislation on a spending bill that the nation desperately needs passed for the other provisions included in it. This is a very dark view of the U.S. government for 1939, though the premise seems quite believable now and has no doubt happened many times in real life. Sadly, over my lifetime, I have watched as the government has gone from always being right to being doubted, mocked and stymied. If it worked half as well as what is depicted in this film, corrupt as it may be, then it would still be working much better than it does today.

The speed at which the political machine gets the smear campaign going seems a little fast. Even in this age of instant communication and flash mobs, it takes a little time to get banners printed and marches organized. The film would have us believe that these can be pulled together in a matter of hours. James Taylor’s power is portrayed like a dictator, keeping all news reports out of his state as if nameless state was an island which radio waves could not reach. I know this is done for effect and is no doubt sped up due to the twenty-four hour time frame of Smith’s filibuster, but I doubt such organization could be mobilized as quickly today, which makes me doubt it could be done so back when the film is set. The same is true for the publishing of the Boy Rangers paper, which is an attempt to get the real news out to the masses through a grassroots organization. This is a very well-funded organization to have the resources to print so many papers and distribute them, again, overnight without the benefit of the internet or FedEx. I only have to believe audiences of the day were more accepting of such anomalies.

That said, I must admit I really enjoyed so much of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington that I would heartily recommend it. Perhaps a bit long, the film maintains your interest throughout. The writing, acting and directing are all solid. Any other year, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington may have won Best Picture. As it stands though, it is one of the better films in a year that saw so many great ones.

No comments:

Post a Comment