Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Day 330 - 11/26/09 - Movie #330

BEFORE: I'm not sure if this is the most appropriate movie to watch on Thanksgiving - since the holiday is such an amalgam of religion, federal holiday, and a really good excuse to stuff ourselves. But director Frank Capra was the answer to final Jeopardy on the episode I watched today, I'm going to jump on the coincidence.

THE PLOT: A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn't back down.

AFTER: This is considered a classic film about the idealism and corruption in the American political system. Jimmy Stewart plays a new Senator, Jefferson Smith, who at first says that he's not going to make any waves, he's just going to sit quietly in the Senate and serve out his term. But a trip around the Washington DC landmarks inspires him, and before you know it, he's learning how to propose a bill to start a national boy's camp - but wouldn't you know that the land he wants to put the camp on is the site of a very suspect federal dam project. What are the odds of that?

When he sticks to his guns, the powers behind the dam project, including Senator Paine, his idol and the senior Senator from his own (unnamed) state, try to frame him by submitting phony evidence that Sen. Smith owns land in the area of the proposed dam, and that he's corrupt and unfit to serve in the Senate. This leads to a filibuster by Sen. Smith to stop the dam bill, while the news of the dam project spreads throughout his home state - but the communications magnate who backs the phony dam also tries to use his own newspapers to spread the news about Smith's senatorial incompetence.

Gee, if only there were a simple solution, like maybe picking another location for the camp... But Sen. Smith has to "do the right thing" and stamp out graft wherever he sees it - but what about the thousands of other pork barrel projects that get approved by Congress every year?

I had more fun picking out the cast members who also appeared in "It's a Wonderful Life", another film directed by Capra. Thomas Mitchell, who played Uncle Billy, plays a reporter here. And Beulah Bondi, who played Ma Bailey, also plays Jimmy Stewart's mother in this film. And the guy who played Mr. Gower the pharmacist, and the guy who played the real estate lawyer, and the little boy who played Pete Bailey... It was also interesting to see Claude Rains as Sen. Paine, since he's most famous for playing the Invisible Man...(oh, so THAT's what he looks like...)

RATING: 5 out of 10 Senate pages

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