Mr. Smith Goes to Washington | Chicago Reader

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

"Boy Ranger" leader Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), appointed junior senator, battles corrupt senior senator Claude Rains and protofascist industrialist/media magnate Edward Arnold in Frank Capra's 1939 vindication of simple virtues and barefoot American democracy. Capra's films in the 30s—the screwball comedies that he nearly single-handedly created—reconciled the irreconcilable; bridged the rural/urban divide; showed love, decency, and neighborliness ascendant; and demonstrated conclusively that America was a land of perfect unity where all social classes were one. Capra's populist heroes—Longfellow Deeds, Jefferson Smith, John Doe—deflated pomposity at home and defeated the shadowy undemocratic forces threatening the globe. This is classic Capracorn, with the greatest girl cynic of the 30s, Jean Arthur.

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