Tonight’s movie was one I haven’t seen in quite a few years: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Still as great a film as I remember.
Most movies from the time period: I find tend to have a rather upbeat tone. Mr. Smith leads in with much of that upbeatness, and uses it to build something much darker as it crushes Stewart’s character like an egg. Brings tears to my eyes when Sander’s finds Smith at the memorial: ready to call it quits on all that huuy, and she encourages him to stand up and fight.
The good natured everyman isn’t a rare character in Capra’s films back then. But Jeff Smith is a curious one. Ever first to admit he shouldn’t be there: he’s quickly sucked in to a vacuum and torn apart by the political machine running his state. Edward Arnold and Claude Rains serve as the film’s direct villain’s, respectively as Jim Taylor the shots caller and Joseph Paine the Senator.
I kind of like how it shows the latter as beyond redemption. Senior Senator Paine quickly toes the machine’s line with every bit the villainy shy of physical assault, yet the good trickles through. He may have become compromised over the years, but isn’t so far gone as to be himself, a lost cause. Combined these lend a lot of weight to the big finish as Smith is hauled off the Senate floor.
Hmm, what was it Superman used to say? Truth, justice, and the American way? Yeah. Something like that. Makes sense that at the time, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington wasn’t well regarded by our Senate. On the flip side it also makes sense that The Library of Congress picked it as one of the first films for the NFR’s preservation effort.