In addition, Capra recruited Jim Preston, then superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery, to find blueprints of the building (“Hollywood Stages”74). Preston was so helpful; Capra made him the film’s technical advisor (“Hollywood Stages” 74). Plaster casts of the Vice Presidents, similar to those in the real Senate, lined the faux gallery, and real Senate documents were used in the filming (“Hollywood Stages” 74). Finally, scenes of Jefferson Smith wandering throughout Washington, D. C. included authentic shots of the capital city and its landmarks (“Hollywood Stages” 74).
There were other reasons made for the dislike of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The United States Ambassador to England, Joseph F. Kennedy, made attempts to prevent Mr. Smith from being released overseas, because Kennedy said the film’s portrayal of the Senate would destroy the morale during WWII (Fineman 1130). Since the film was released just after the Nazi’s invaded Poland, other powerful Americans said that the depiction of corruption in the U. S. government might be used by the Axis powers to gain the upper hand in the war (Fineman 1130).
Even though Hollywood offered $2,000,000 to remove the film from theatres, Capra retorted by mailing numerous favorable reviews of the film to Kennedy and other oversea officials, and many eased off their pursuit to ban the film (Hanson 1141). In an area of France under Nazi occupation, one theatre ran the film for thirty days straight until the Nazi’s banned it (Fineman 1130). Other bans were also put on the European debut of the film, but for another very different reason. Because the film was released during WWII, many fascist leaders, instead of seeing the movie as an attack on Washington, saw Mr.
Smith as a symbol of democracy and prevented the film from being shown (Alter 71). Once released in Europe, Allied forces viewed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as a beacon of hope for those oppressed by governmental corruption (Fineman 1130). Overcoming Washington’s negative review of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the film became monumentally recognized for its idealistic view of American democracy (Carson 27). Most critics and Americans saw Jefferson Smith’s determination to reveal the corruption of Senator Paine and Taylor as an extreme patriotic act, especially considering his lack of political experience.
One critic said of James Stewart’s role that he was “representing clean, American young manhood . . . ” (Hartung 58). Some critics mock Capra’s portrayal of the nai?? ve and innocent and wholesome Jefferson Smith, but in my opinion, that was his intent13. I see Jefferson Smith as the kind of man that Americans wish for during rough times, and as Americans were delighted to see during WWII. Smith was the kind of man to stand up for the people, to look out for his fellow man, and the kind of man who, if there were more like him, would make the world a better, more honest place to live.
Smith is the average man, with imperfections, yet he still acts in a patriotic manner. Although Capra raises questions about the state of our government, Senator Smith renews Americans ability to feel good about the country they live in, at least for the length14 of the movie. Capra wants the viewers of Mr. Smith to believe that these ideals about American patriotism and just democracy can become reality, and Jefferson Smith is the example he gives us to live by (Thompson 29). It was Jefferson Smith himself who said in the film to Saunders, “Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders.
Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say, ‘I’m free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn’t. I can. And my children will'”. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington became, therefore, one of the most popular and successful15 films ever made. In it’s first week being shown at Radio City Music Hall, Mr. Smith grossed $110,000 (Griffith 14). In England, the movie was also successful. Writer James Hilton stated in London’s Sunday Graphic that it was “just about the best American patriotic film ever made” (www. reelclassics. com).
As you can see, critics received Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in both a positive and negative manner. Some people viewed the film as a symbol of patriotism, while others viewed it as an attack on the United States government. Regardless, no one can deny that Mr. Smith holds a place in film history.
Works Cited Alter, Jonathan. “It’s a Wonderful Legacy. ” Newsweek 14 July 1997: 78. Carson, Tom. “Hollywood Does D. C. ” Washingtonian July 2003: 27-32. “Filibuster. ” Microsoft Encarta Online. 2003. Encarta World English Dictionary & Microsoft Corp. 10 November 2003.
<http://encarta. msn. com/ dictionary_/filibuster. html>. Fineman, Daniel D. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. ” Rev. of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, by Frank Capra. Magill’s Survey of Cinema Vol. 3. English Language Films Series. Ed. Frank N. Magill. New Jersey: Salem Press, 1980. 1128-30. Griffith, Richard. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. ” Rev. of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, by Frank Capra. National Board of Review Magazine 14. Nov. 1939: 13- 15. Rpt. in Selected Film Criticism: 1931- 1940. Ed. Anthony Slide. New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1982. 157-61.
Hanson, Patricia, ed. The American Film Institute Catalog. Vol. 3. Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1993. 1411. Hartung, Philip T. “No Time for Politics. ” The Commonweal 1 November 1940: 57-58. “Hollywood Stages an Amazing Reproduction of the Senate. ” Life 16 October 1939: 67- 74. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. ” AMC. America Movie Classics. 14 October 2003. <http://www. amctv. com/show/detail/0,,2267-1-EST,00. html>. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. ” Home page. Reel Classics L. L. C. 14 October 2003. <http://www. reelclassics. com/Movies/MrSmith/mrsmith.
htm>. Osborne, Robert. 60 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards. New York: Abbeville Press, 1989. 62-65. Sennett, Ted. “Frank Capra. ” Great Movie Directors. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. , 1986. 45-47. Stein, Elliot. “Frank Capra. ” Cinema: A Critical Dictionary. Vol. 1. Ed. Richard Roud. New York: Viking Press, 1980. 181-88. Thompson, Robert. “American Politics on Film. ” Journal of Popular Culture 20 (1986): 27-47. 1 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is based on the Lewis R. Foster novel The Gentleman from Montana (Hanson 1411). Mr.
Smith was produced for Columbia Pictures (Griffith 157). 2 Frank Capra was born in 1897 to a peasant couple in Sicily. Capra starred in Battle of San Pietro (1945), directed films such as It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), It Happened One Night (1934), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), and The Miracle Woman (1931). He also produced and wrote the screenplay for It’s a Wonderful Life. Capra also produced and wrote screenplays for other films (http://www. amctv. com; Stein). 3 James Stewart was born May 20, 1908 and died July 2, 1997.
Films by Stewart include: An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991), The Big Sheep (1978), Airport ’77 (1977), The Shootist (1976), That’s Entertainment (1974), The Cheyenne Social Club (1970), Firecreek (1968), Bandelero! (1968), The Rare Breed (1966), Shenandoah (1965), Dear Brigitte (1965), The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), Take Her, She’s Mine (1963), How the West was Won (1962), The Man who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962), Two Rode Together (1961), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), The FBI Story (1959), Bell, Book and Candle (1958), Vertigo (1958), Night Passage (1957), The Spirit of St.
Louis (1957), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Man from Laramie (1955), Strategic Air Command (1955), The Far Country (1955), Rear Window (1954), The Glenn Miller Story (1963), The Naked Spur (1953), Thunder Bay (1953), Bend of the River (1952), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Carbine Williams (1952), No Highway in the Sky (1951), Harvey (1950), Winchester ’73 (1950), Broken Arrow (1950), The Stratton Story (1949), Call Northside 777 (1948), On Our Merry Way (1948), Rope (1948), You Gotta Stay Happy (1948), Magic Town (1947), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Come Live with Me (1941), Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Pot O’ Gold (1941), The Mortal Storm (1940).
The Philadelphia Story (1940), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), No Time for Comedy (1940), It’s a Wonderful World (1939), Made for Each Other (1939), Destry Rides Again (1939), Of Human Hearts (1939), Vivacious Lady (1938), You Can’t Take It with You (1938), The Shopworm Angel (1938), The Last Gangster (1937), Navy Blue and Gold (1937), Born to Dance (1936), The Gorgeous Hussy (1936), Next Time We Love (1936), Wife Vs. Secretary (1936), After the Thin Man (1936), Rose Marie (1936), Speed (1936), and Murder Man (1935) (http://www. amctv. com). 4 Played by Edward Arnold (Fineman 1128). Arnold acted in various movies including Annie Get Your Gun (1950) (http://www. amctv. com). 5 Played by Claude Rains (Fineman 1128). Rains acted in many films including The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Casablanca (1943), and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (http://www. amctv. com). 6 Jean Arthur played Clarissa Saunders. Arthur was born 10/17/1905 and died 6/19/1991. Arthur acted in Mr.
Deeds Goes to Town (1936), The Devil and Miss Jones (1941), The Ex-mrs. Bradford (1936), Shane (1953), and several other films (Fineman; http://www. amctv. com). 7 The definition of filibuster is “a political delaying tactic; a tactic such as a long irrelevant speech or several such speeches used to delay or prevent the passage of legislation” (http://encarta. msn. com/dictionary_/filibuster. html). 8 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was the sequel to the 1936 Capra film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Additionally, an ABC television series from 1962-1963, staring Fess Parker, was based on the film. In 1977, a remake called Billy Jack Goes to Washington was released. A 1949 concept for Mr.
Smith Starts a Riot never reached the production stage (Hanson 1411). 9 4,000 were in attendance at Constitution Hall, including 45 senators and 250 members of the House (www. reelclassics. com). 10 Frank Capra’s biographer, Joseph Mc Bride, has been documented as saying that Capra exaggerated the Senate’s walkout. Although not well received, McBride states that no mass walkouts actually occurred (Carson 27). 11 The Neely Anti-Block Booking Bill later was responsible for dissolving studio-owned chains of theatres (Hanson 1411). 12 This single set design cost $100,000 and took six weeks and 125 men to complete its construction (“Hollywood Stages” 74).
13 His style of making wholesome movies was nicknamed by Capra himself “Capra-corny” (Fineman 1129). 14 Running time of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is 125 minutes (Fineman 1128). 15 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington received various awards. In 1940, the film won 11 Academy Award Nominations including Best Actor (James Stewart), Best Supporting Actor (Harry Carey), and Best Original Story (Lewis R. Foster). It Won Best Original Story (Osborne 62-65). In 1989, Mr. Smith was accepted into the National Film Registry by National Film Preservation Board (http://www. amctv. com). In 1939, James Stewart named Best Actor at New York Film Critics Circle Awards (Hanson 1411).