Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Revisit: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

A Columbia Pictures release 1939

Directed by
Frank Capra

Writing credits:
Lewis R. Foster (story)
Sidney Buchman (screenplay)

A naive man (James Stewart) is appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn't back down.

One of the best American films ever made, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington features James Stewart in a performance that marked his career, transitioning his screen image from that of a boyish, soft-spoken socialite to hardened leading man. The film itself eclipses this transformation; at it's start, Stewart is a naive young senator who works with boy scouts, but as he stands down government corruption, he turns to a man of unshakable convictions. After the turn of the decade, Stewart began making his classic westerns with Anthony Mann, successfully portraying manic or degranged characters who lived by their own code. Mr. Smith was crucial in allowing Stewart to adopt such roles.

Handled masterfully by Frank Capra, the film is easily one of the strongest explorations of American government and democracy and remains surprisingly relevent. It was nominated for a whopping 11 Oscars, though it faced tough competition from Gone with the Wind, ultimately landing only one award for Best Original Screenplay. A must see.

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