Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

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You just make up your mind you’re not gonna quit, and I’ll tell you what. I’ve been thinking about it all the way back here. It’s a forty foot dive into a tub of water, but I think you can do it.--Clarissa Saunders

A critic once said of AC/DC, “they made the same album nine times.”  Okay, sure, there’s some truth to that, and we get the point.  But if you’ve got the best recipe known to man for corned beef hash and people keep coming back for seconds, why mess with it?  Who wants to hear AC/DC come out with an album of jazz standards?

Frank Capra is the AC/DC of the classic movie world: It’s a Wonderful Life, Meet John Doe, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington–it’s all the same movie. The first and the last have the same lead in Jimmy Stewart, and even It Happened One Night gives the audience an underdog to root for. You know what you’re going to get with Capra, and that’s okay, because nobody does the little guy average Joe versus the fat cats and impossible odds better than he did.

The film has a well-deserved 94% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The lone holdout comes across as a jerk who’s way too much of a hipster to admit liking something as plebeian as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Forget that guy; it’s a great movie with a stellar cast.  Sure, Jimmy Stewart is great as Jefferson Smith, but the success of the movie owes an equal measure to Edward Arnold (another Capra repeat performer), Claude Rains, and Jean Arthur.

How about that Jean Arthur, huh? She’s fantastic. The anti-Barbara Stanwyck. As attractively charming as Stanwyck is flat out femme fatale sexy. But don’t let that fool you. There’s a brain behind the facade, and she comes across as Socrates’ unsatisfied compared to Stewart’s satisfied fool. Stewart’s character loses his illusions in the film alright, but he doesn’t really grow as a character. He’s wiser, but essentially still the same scout leader at the end of the film as he is at the beginning. It’s Arthur’s Saunders who goes through the dark night of the soul to emerge whole on the other side. Not to mention that she’s the one who orchestrates the whole thing to begin with.

Okay, I guess that’s enough gushing. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Guilty pleasure or not, I love Capra corn. And I feel a Jean Arthur festival coming on too.

P.S.-The trailer I found is fan made.  Someone did a great job.

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