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Must-See Movie Reviews From Before the Grave

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

"I will not yield!"

Released in 1939, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington tells the story of charming, but naive man Jefferson Smith as he attempts to counter corruption in the Washington senate, and build a boys camp in the process.  The movie received widespread critical acclaim on release and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture.  To this day it's still considered a classic.


Initial Impressions:

Simon: N/A


Bennett: N/A


Simon's Take:


I really think that one of the best parts about this project is that it forces me to watch films I normally would never watch.  When I first drew the name from the tin and read it aloud, both Bennett and I burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the name,  and the fact that we'd be subjected to a two hour film on politics from the 1930s.  Coming from a film like Kill Bill this wasn't the most exciting prospect. On this occasion though, the project really paid off!  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington isn't just a good film.  It's a great film.  I wasn't expecting I would dislike it.  Not after I started mentioning the film in conversation.  It seems to be a favorite film for a lot of people.  But I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. For starters, the film is very well written.  Aside from a bunch of rather... old expressions (Shucks anyone?) the film felt like it could have been written yesterday.  The dialog in particular felt very natural, with casual conversation spanning a number of different topics.  And humor cropping up frequently.  The characters felt wonderfully real and layered.  And the villains came off as imposing without appearing cheesy. The plot had the potential to be quite melodramatic as well.  With an underdog senator trying to take down corruption in order to build a boy's camp.  And yet the movie doesn't portray it as such.  The cause and the reasons don't seem to matter much in this story.  Not that they're irrelevant   But because Mr. Smith could have been fighting for anything and you'd still want to cheer him on.  So compelling is the narration.  The last half hour was surprisingly intense, and featured phenomenal acting by James Stewart in the lead.  Being a big Hitchcock fan, I've seen him act a few times now, but I don't believe I've seen him turn in a performance as good as this. In fact my only complaint with the film is that it's almost entirely eclipsed by it's climax.  The movie starts off slow and doesn't seem to introduce the characters at all.  They merely appear and do their job.  By then end of the film you should have an idea of who everyone is and what they're doing.  But it can make the film hard to follow for the first hour or so. Despite this shortcoming however I didn't feel like to took much away from the film as a whole. To sum things up.  The first hour and a half make this a great movie.  The last half hour makes this film a masterpiece.  Highly recommended!


Pros:

- Very well written!
- Surprisingly intense.
- The last half hour is breathtaking!


Cons:

- Slow start. 


Bennett's Take:


Classic (definition): Judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington=classic. Having never heard of this film prior to the draw, I too was skeptical of how it made its way into the top 501 movies. Now I know. Through great character development and acting, plenty of humour, and an inspiring story being told before your eyes in black and white, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington tells a tale terrifically. I never thought I would say it, but I thoroughly enjoyed a political drama made in the 1930's. My initial impression was that I would fall asleep during the film, however that was far from the case. Apparently films from the 1930's can be just as exciting as the latest action films, in its own way.
It was incredible to me a film having its dodranscentennial (75 years) anniversary next year could make me laugh as much as I did. The young boys in the film were great. When things seemed like they could be getting a bit dry, the boys brigade was always there to liven things up. When Smith first arrives in Washington he is as giddy as a schoolboy (whatever that means) to see the sights Washington has to offer. It may just be me, but I am particularly fond of awkward situations in films, and Smith has many of these interactions when he first arrives. Needless to say, trying to communicate with beautiful women is not one of Smith's fortes.
As a viewer you are thrown right into the middle of the story, making initial impressions of characters the only way to figure out who people are. I enjoyed this as it allowed for your imagination to fill in the gaps. The characters were developed more thoroughly as the movie progressed through magnificent acting on everyones part. James Stewart (Smith) in particular does an incredible job of 'acting'. I do not want to use the word acting because it was done so well. It was more like 'living'. The passion Stewart was able to muster in the final scenes as Smith fought with all he could against the corruption of the senate was inspiring to say the least. The saying, stand for what you believe in, takes on a whole knew meaning in this film.
I will have to agree with Simon in this case, the beginning was a little slow, but the humour made up for the lacking pace. My only other criticism for this film would be that nothing happens with the pigeons. I was excited to see how they would be used, but alas, they were not brought up later in the film.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a classic, and should be watched by everyone. I will not sit until you do (you'll get it after you watch the movie)!


Pros:

- Impressive display of acting
- Great sense of humour
- Inspirational!


Cons:

- Slow start
- Pigeons not used


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  • Susan

    I love Jimmy (James) Steward movies, he was a fabulous actor.. and one of my favourites. He really knew how to get into a character.
    I haven’t seen this.. will now though!

    • http://simonhull.com Simon Hull

      I highly recommend it! I had some trepidation going in. But its really a superb film.

  • Savannah S.

    Completely agree with everything mentioned here besides one thing. About the pigeons Bennett, he did mention them later. Suzane asked him how they were doing and he said he had already had sent one off.
    Also, I just got done watching this film in class and my teacher told us that Stewart put mercury in his throat to get his voice the right way for the ending. Now that’s dedication!