Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)


A fresh-faced and idealistic young man is elected to the U.S. senate, but when he finds that he is meant to be nothing more than a puppet of big business interests he tries to buck the system from within.

The part Jimmy Stewart was born to play, he is perfect as the optimistic every man who is shocked by the reality of the political system. In this day and age of political spin, Frank Capra’s trademark rose-tinting looks terribly naive, but characters such as Claude Rains’ ex-idealist who learned to “play ball” and the cold-hearted fat cat Edward Arnold, manipulating democracy for his own selfish ends still feel extremely familiar. This is one of those rooting for the little guy stories that makes you switch off your world weary cynicism and believe that the good guys can win; for a couple of hours, at least.

Add some fantastic support from Jean Arthur and Thomas Mitchell – one of the many faces you will recognise from It’s A Wonderful Life – as the wise-cracking, seen-it-all-before duo that are won over by Stewart’s unshakeable belief in the decency of the common man and you have one of the few films about the American political system that doesn’t act as instant anaesthesia.


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