The year is 1939. Germany invaded Poland spurring the start of World War II. The Baseball Hall of Fame opened in Cooperstown, New York. Al Capone was freed from Alcatraz. And the film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” became a fan favorite. It is the story of a naïve and down to earth man who, after the death of his state’s senator, is sent to Washington D.C. to fill his seat in the senate. “Mr. Smith” is one of Frank Capra’s best works, bringing humor, sentiment, tension and drama to the rather boring U.S. Senate. The film stars James Stewart as Jefferson Smith, Jean Arthur as Clarissa Saunders, and Claude Rains as Senator Joseph Paine.
Following the death of a U.S. Senator, a replacement must be found. The governor must decide between two candidates due to the possible repercussions for choosing either one. The governor’s children eventually influence him to appoint Jefferson Smith (Stewart), who is the leader of the Boy Rangers from their state, to the Senate. Smith is seen as the prime candidate; he is extremely patriotic and free from greed and corrupt ambitions.
At first Smith is overwhelmed by his new position, but he soon learns that he will be taken under the wing of Senator Joseph Paine (Rains), a well-respected senator and good friend of Smith’s father. As he starts his new position, Smith is both intimidated and inspired by everything the city of Washington has to offer. Since his main responsibility is to fill the vacant seat in the senate, he has no real goals or objectives. Eventually he grows bored and goes to Senator Pain for advice. Pain who has grown fond of Smith offers Smith the idea of passing a bill in Congress.
Smith generates a seemingly meaningless bill, with the help of his secretary Clarissa Saunders (Arthur), which would benefit the Boy Rangers by donating land for these boys. But this seemingly insignificant bill risks exposing the plans of a bill that Senator Pain has been working on for a long time. Smith is asked by Pain to drop the bill, but Smith, who doesn’t understand why this bill would be a problem, refuses to drop it. Eventually Smith learns of the intentions of Senator Pain and the corrupt group which he associates with, and this makes him even more fervent against backing down. Smith fights, refusing to back down even when there are countless attempts of political slander, betrayal, and false accusations about using the land for his own benefit. Smith exemplifies the idea of the American spirit by never backing down from what he believes is right.
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is one of the most inspirational movies of all time, the AFI had named it among its top 100 most influential movies. “Mr. Smith” gives us all a sense of possibility and hope for our futures, by showing us that even the most naïve and inexperienced people can take a stand for what they believe in. James Stewart exemplifies this through many of his roles, not just in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” but also through films such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Another of Frank Capra’s films) This is a must see film, as it demonstrates many of the ideals, we as people should exhibit in our everyday lives.