At the Movies

Naturally I wanted to find a movie appropriate for the Fourth of July. It isn’t quite as easy as one might think. So I decided to pick a film with patriotic values, one that, however sentimental, represents  a sense of freedom and democratic ideals.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
is a movie from that year of all years in American film making – 1939. Although nominated for 11 Academy Awards, its only award went to Lewis R. Foster for his original story of the naive and idealistic Jefferson Smith, appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate, and his discovery of the shortcomings of the political process. Although many were disappointed that Jimmy Stewart didn’t win for best actor, the role firmly established him as one of the country’s strongest leading men.

Although political in nature, this is a Frank Capra film after all, so there is also humor and romance. Jean Arthur is simply wonderful as Stewart’s cynical secretary and eventual love interest.

Their relationship is not unlike the one between Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper in Capra’s Meet John Doe – the wise yet world-weary woman skeptical of, yet enchanted by the naive and idealist man. And the message is a variation on the same as his later film – the power of innocence and the victory of David the individual over Goliath as, in this case, the corrupt political machine.

In the film’s climax, Stewart’s character delivers an almost 24 hour filibuster to speak his piece. He is utterly convincing as an inspiring source of  integrity, tenacity, honesty and decency. And if you ever felt that your one vote doesn’t make a difference, then be sure to put this on your list!!

There is a wonderful supporting cast including Edward Arnold as the ruthless party boss Jim Taylor and Claude Rains as the corrupt and jaded Senator Paine.

In conclusion, something I read when I was researching this film sums it up perfectly, “This film should be required viewing by all members of Congress at least once a year, and all voters before each election.” There weren’t any fabulous trailers but this will at least give you a bit of the flavor. Enjoy!!

18 thoughts on “At the Movies

  1. Q, I am embarrassed to admit that I have NEVER SEEN THIS! Thanks for the reminder because it really must be considered one of the great American films.

    Wishing you a lovely weekend!

  2. This is one I saw and incidentally showed my 15 year old son if you can believe it (it took him 20 minutes to get over how OLD and how black and white it was..haha) It was recommended by his history teacher for the entire class to watch and then they were able to get extra credit for writing up a report, he was bored to tears initially but got more into it and finally alas saw the point of the movie and “got it’. Its actually a wonderful movie and Jimmy Stewart I thought was fabulous, I didnt’ realize he hadn’t won an Oscar for it.

    • Tina – I’m so impressed with your son’s history teacher. I’m sure most kids would balk at the black and white – but I’m glad he stuck it out – even just to learn what a filibuster is!!

  3. I enjoy all of Frank Capra’s movies, and I agree that this one in particular should be reviewed by each generation. I don’t think high schools have civics classes anymore, and what a huge mistake that is. No wonder our rights are eroding!

  4. Oh, I just love it. What a perfect movie pick for this weekend! If we have any downtown, I would love to take a break and watch this!

    Have a safe, happy and sparkling 4th!

  5. Modern classic needs revisiting – “Born on the 4th of July” – with Tom Cruise. He won an Oscar for this, and it was his rebellion against his Risky Business/Top Gun persona. It was an act of pure genius, but also riveting in the perspective of a vet returning from a war that nobody understood, and never should have happened. May vets returning from Afghanistan never experience the cruelties inflicted by war protesters that were depicted in this film

  6. Thank you for the reminder–I don’t think I’ve seen this one since film school and Frank Capra is just so wonderful. I remember to this day that is was the favorite film of the chairman of the film school (who I ta’d for) and although not chic at the time for kids in nyc in their 20s, I have a special place for it now. You’re inspiring me to catch up on some classics over the long weekend–they’re so satisfying!

    xo Mary Jo

  7. This is the perfect movie for the Fourth!!! One feels so patriotic after watching it…great suggestion, love it!
    Have a fantastic weekend…
    xo J~

  8. Great movie for the 4th! And I love your table settings from the previous post. Hope your holiday weekend is great. We are finally getting some gorgeous weather in Los Angeles, with lots of heat. Which means dinner outside in the garden should be perfect! We are going to make Mario Batali’s barbecued ribs.

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