Review: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)


James Stewart combined with politics, count me in!

Screenplay By: Sidney Buchman
Directed By: Frank Capra

Politics are a tricky subject to tackle. One can either look at them form an idealized viewpoint, such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Or, one can look at them from a pessimistic angle, Wag the Dog. Personally, I lean more towards the pessimistic side of things. I like the message that Mr. Smith Goes to Washington tries to get across, but in fails to resonate with me. I don’t believe that one man can make a difference in the political landscape, at the end of the day the Jefferson Smith’s will always lose while the Jim Taylor’s will always stand triumphant. This disconnect falls on me and my own political views, and that is why I understand that this movie works for a lot of other people. There are plenty of people who love the idea of a Jefferson Smith making a difference and still think it can happen, unfortunately I am not one of them and that is why Mr. Smith Goes to Washington really didn’t work for me.

Most of the characters are very one note, with not much in the way of depth to them, but grade A performances from Claude Raines and James Stewart raise the movie above its rather pedestrian fare. Their performances were the main draw I had to the film and said performances were what kept me interested in the film long past the point when I realized I didn’t agree with its politics. It’s not the best you will see from either gentleman, and the rest of the cast isn’t up to the same level, but they add a bit of levity and depth to a film that needed such things.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a film worth seeing for a number of reasons. If you want to see a pair of good performances then by all means, go see it. If you are into political movies, then by all means go see it. Just because it didn’t completely work for me doesn’t mean others won’t be taken by the films idealist look at the political spectrum.



Bill Thompson

4 responses to “Review: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

  1. I saw this on TCM recently too, and have to agree with you, Bill. I think part of the problem is that the great media propaganda machine has been at work, non-stop even more so in recent years. We also need to consider the political climate at the time this movie was made. Not many young folk would want to look at it to begin with, and if they do, it would be a curiosity from ages past. Some of us older folks would years for the ability to be effective, but if we’ve seen behind the curtain, we know it’s impossible.

  2. I think for me, at least, it’s also a case of the movie showing me something that I can’t latch onto. I wish that one man could make a difference, I would love to live in that world, but we live in a big political machine world where unless you have money and are a member of the big two political parties (in the states at least) your ability to make a difference are slim and none.

  3. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Streaming Wasteland! | Bill's Movie Emporium

  4. Pingback: Review: Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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