Monday, July 18, 2011

Mr.Smith Goes To Washington - a 1939 Film Review

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Last evening we watched a beautiful, heartening movie, Mr.Smith Goes to Washington (1939 movie!).

I had not heard about the hero of the movie, James Stewart or anybody else, so did not show much interest, when my son said that 'this movie is 'sort of a seed', for the Tamil movie, 'Mudhalvan', ('Nayak' in Hindi'). Then reluctantly agreed to watch this movie and it was a very good decision! I and my husband loved the movie!

The story revolves around a young, straight forward, clean person, Jeffrey Smith, 'selected' by greedy Senators to be a dummy Senator, in place of a deceased Senator of Smith's state (the name of the state is not mentioned anywhere!). They think that his clean boyish image (he is the head of a children's group, 'Boy Rangers' and is very popular among the children and their parents!) will be a big plus point for him. He is put under Senator Paine for training in Senator's job, whom Smith comes to know, was his father's close friend. This person, Paine, is a Presidential aspirant and is ready to go to any length to achieve the dream. He has a soft corner for Smith also. Smith is shown as a true patriotic American.

As part of the training Paine asks Smith to propose a bill at the Senate. Paine's secretary is asked to help him to prepare the bill. Reluctantly, the experienced secretary helps him draft the bill. They show how clumsily Smith does this work, which is quite hilarious! The bill says that Smith wants to build a National Boy's camp in his home state with federal fund, which will help under privileged children to spend a couple of months to stay there and learn new skills. The area he selects, is near a creek. Here comes the hitch. The same area was already ear-marked for building a dam by Paine's promoter and they get their shock. Then Smith's test begins...how he handles the Senator's destructive plan and how much trouble he faces and wins in the end, is the story! The last 'filibuster' scene at the Senate chamber, where Smith tries to clear his name, is the best!

The film has won Best Actor Oscar (James Stewart) and 11 Oscar nominations. The movie was a big hit and had great reviews. One review:

'Stewart's character represents the powerful forces of American freedom, democracy and morality over oppression and evil in his emotional portrait of a naive, idealist, patriotic young politician who after being sent to Washington (a symbol of liberty and democracy), as a junior senator from an un-named state, matures in wisdom, fights political corruption within his state's political machine and guards American values as a moral hero!'

The film was released after a couple of months of the beginning of WWII in Europe with great reviews.

This movie is ranked no.5 on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Times (2006) and no.26 Greatest Movie of All Times (2007) by AFI.

Jean Arthur played the role of Paine's Secretary, who helped Smith throughout his debate at the Senate floor, acted very well.

The Senate chamber was built as a replica of the original by Columbia Pictures for this movie. It was a huge set (source: IMDB!)

Anyways, we enjoyed watching this famous movie! The old black & white movies have got their own charm! I have watched another 1939 movie, 'Gone with the wind', long back at Sathyam theatre, here, in Chennai!

Now, have a taste of the Senate scene:



Picture courtesy: Google

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11 comments :

Bikramjit said...

I will see if i can get it at my library :) would like ot watch it for sure .. thank you for sharing

Bikram's

KParthasarathi said...

I will get the movie from the local library and watch it.Incidentally I hv been seeing some Westerns with James Stewart doing the main role.what a contrast!!

Sandhya said...

Bikram: Did you watch Cinderella Man? That was good too!

Watch this when you are bored. Many scenes are funny and we were laughing a lot.


KParthasarathi: This is the first time I am hearing about James Stewart! My husband is crazy about Westerns!

Destination Infinity said...

I too would like to see a few movies released before many years - IMDB seems to be a good source to start with as, I have not seen 90% of the top movies there... Maybe some day. But since you have reviewed this movie, I might remember this instantly when trying to select movies to watch - So, these reviews could be helpful then.

Destination Infinity

kavita said...

I will have to buy the dvd .I have seen only one of James Stewart ,Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much.The movie undoubtly sounds very interesting and also it is enjoyed more when you have good company to watch it.Your son has got a good taste ,he got it from you .Thanks for sharing Sandhya.

Sandhya said...

Destination Infinity: Long back we used to get a channel, TCM. They used to screen black & White movies, mostly. So, I have seen some in those days. Now, my son is making both of us to watch good movies...he hates his appa watching 'kaadalikka neramillai', Thiruvilaiyaadal, Minsarakkanavu, Anbe Sivam etc. again and again, though he too likes those movies!


Kavita: KParthasarathy Sir says that he has acted in many Western movies, but I don't know him at all!

Thank you, my son makes us watch excellent movies now and our knowledge/taste is improving about 'good' movies!

radha said...

Incidentally , we have also been watching some of the classics on TCM Channel. They are so good.

Sandhya said...

Radha: The heroines look more beautiful in Black & White movies, in any language! Remember Vyjayanthimala's old movies?

writerzblock said...

Wow, Sandhya, you saw GWTW at Sathyam? Wow :-) I am feeling quite let down actually, after reading that our very own Muthalvan was copied from this movie.. why can't we do something original?? Btw, I loved Muthalvan :-)

meeratales said...

James Stewart is a favourite of mine. Some of the old black and white are real clasics- so difficult to them. I find that I relate well to 1950s American films becauase in some ways our society now is at that same stage I feel.

Sandhya said...

writerzblock: I had read the book many many years ago and I liked the movie too!

The idea might have been taken from this movie for Mudhalvan, Pallavi! Mudhalvan is a superb movie!


Meerastales: Welcome here, Meera!

Do you feel so?! Somehow I like old black & white movies! We used to watch in TCM channel until a few years back!

Thank you!

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