Another 1939 Masterpiece: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington


The Trylon and Heights Theater’s 1939: Hollywood’s Zenith series begins at the Heights on Thursday night, with Frank Capra’s acclaimed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

In roughly a month, Michael Bay’s new Transformers movie will flicker to life in theaters across America. In its latest trailer, we’re teased with a scene in which a large robot (man) rides into battle atop another, larger robot (dinosaur). Honestly now, shouldn’t that be the whole bit? Faced with the breathy promise of fire-breathing theropod robotic locomotion, most of us are either all in or all out.

Point being, for those who aren’t eagerly awaiting Bay’s latest installment of constant motion and àla carte idealism, I prescribe its polar opposite, Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

This is the perfect time to (re)visit a film whose arresting power comes to stand in the complete absence of motion. Where the strength of a young senator’s idealism is pushed to the limits, as he must filibuster, refusing to yield the floor of the Senate in order to defend both his honor and his ideals.

So iconic is Stewart’s performance in these filibuster scenes, it’s easy to overlook the rest of the film entirely. Snippets from Smith’s third act are often featured in awards shows and are easily accessible online. Because really, who can make the time?

Why, you can.

On Thursday evening, choose to sit in witness of Mr. Smith as if perched high up in the Senate gallery, cringing as the deck is stacked again and again against the titular hero of this film.

And at the end of it all, when Jefferson Smith has all but been crushed, marvel as Capra stubbornly refuses to send in the cavalry, dino or otherwise, to save the day.

For of the two directors, Capra is certainly bolder than Bay, believing that our job as citizens is to cling dearly to that which is most good and true. And by doing so, we give truth the power to remain standing, even when our legs have given way.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington screens Thursday night at 7:30 at the Heights Theater. Purchase tickets here.

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