Customer Reviews: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
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on December 9, 2000
MR.SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON is one of the greatest classic of american cinema. Jimmy Stewart is wonderful, Capra's direction is so great. The sory may sound a bit naive, but the emotion of the film so great can overcome this very naiveness and turns into a powerful, truthful idealism. Hollywood then could do that, not today, and I really don't understand why.
I just would like to add one fact to praise this DVD, and encourage everybody who visits this page to buy it, even if they have seen the movie; in many cases, great polular classics are oftenly viewed on poor prints and video masters, because of the very popularity of the film, the prints and negatives tend to get damged. overused, often replaced with inferior film elements. Thus, a great classic for everybody becomes a great film that one's grandpa talked about, and would really look that old.
That is why a special notice should be given to this DVD, because The Library of Congress did a wonderful job rescuing and restoring the film. The trasnfer is from their restored print, which they worked out of the original camera negative. Some parts of the negative were also damged, but they succeeded in replacing them with film elements that are not apparently inferior. The result is, a sharper, detailed look that we have been unable to see for over 4 or 5 decades.
These film archive people are doing a wonderful and important job. Restoring a film is not an easy job, and certainly is not cheap. That why these DVDs are so important, so that you can understand the importance of what they are doing.
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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a timeless, brilliant parable of Good Vs. Evil, played out in the U.S. Senate. Good is represented by Jimmy Stewart, in the film he SHOULD have won an Oscar for (MGM, trying to bolster 'Goodbye, Mr. Chips' at the box office, influenced it's Academy members to award Robert Donat with the statue; the following year, Stewart appeared in 'The Philadelphia Story', for MGM, and won Best Actor!). He is magnificent as Jefferson Smith, an idealistic youth leader, who is offered up as an innocent and gullible replacement for a Senate vacancy. Evil is personified by Claude Rains, as the suave and corrupt senior Senator, and Edward Arnold, brilliant as a ruthless party boss.
In many ways, 'Smith' is cut from the same cloth as Capra's earlier masterpiece, 'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town', and both films costar the radiant Jean Arthur, here cast as Smith's secretary. She is an old hand at understanding political wheelings and dealings, and at first, she considers her new boss a total idiot! But Smith's integrity wins her over, and with the help of reporter Thomas Mitchell (1939's busiest actor!), the three manage to outlast the forces of Evil, in the most rousing filabuster Hollywood has ever filmed!
Two supporting characters deserve special attention; Harry Carey, one of Hollywood's most beloved Western stars, plays a warm, sympathetic Vice President, in a small but very crucial role; and Beulah Bondi is terrific as Stewart's mother (she would play his mother again in the Capra/Stewart classic 'It's A Wonderful Life').
The new DVD edition offers the insights of Frank Capra, Jr., son of the legendary filmmaker, as well as trailers, vintage material, and a whole lot more!
If you've seen 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' before, treat yourself with this lavish new edition! If you haven't seen it, you are in for one of the most wonderful cinema experiences you'll ever have, from the best year Hollywood ever had!
Simply put, this film is a masterpiece!
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon December 26, 2008
There are films that are purely formulaic and consequently redundant, and then there are select classics that seem to be inspired by the same formula but in a way that make them feel fresh every time you see them. Such is the case with legendary director Frank Capra's political 1939 masterwork, as he and veteran screenwriter Sidney Buchman tell the story of the underdog who must face seemingly impenetrable obstacles to achieve a greater good. Capra made his reputation on films which conveyed such unbridled idealism like his most famous work, 1946's It's A Wonderful Life, but I would argue that this one has a broader sense of resonance since it deals unflinchingly with the corrupted American political structure, a situation that has unfortunately changed little in the nearly seventy years since the film's original release.

A young James Stewart is perfectly cast as Jefferson Smith, the naïve leader of a local Boy Scouts-type organization, who is swept into office as his state's junior senator by the all-powerful political machine headed by a Boss Tweed-like figure, media mogul Jim Taylor. In awe of the senior senator, Joseph Paine, Smith follows Paine's advice to push a bill for a national boys' camp back in the home state. A problem arises in the fact that the camp is to be built on the Willets Dam site which Taylor and Paine plan to use for graft. Along the way, Smith wins the support of his initially cynical secretary, Clarissa Saunders, who becomes inspired by Smith's integrity and encourages him to push the bill. This leads to his tenacious efforts to pass the bill, going as far as staging a 23-hour filibuster on the U.S. Senate floor. It's a monumental climax that Stewart turns into one of the most classic scenes in film history.

Supporting performances by familiar actors are uniformly strong with the wonderfully acerbic Jean Arthur as Saunders, Edward Arnold in full-bluster mode as Taylor, Harry Carey as the silently supportive Senate president and Claude Rains as the conflicted Paine, with Thomas Mitchell, Guy Kibbee, Eugene Pallette, H.B. Warner and Beulah Bondi in smaller roles. The one flaw is the abrupt ending in which one character experiences an instant transformation with little pay-off shown for Smith's efforts. Apparently, Capra unwisely cut these scenes out after preview audiences seemed fidgety at the two-hour mark. Regardless it remains an inspiring piece of American cinema. The remastered 2008 DVD from Columbia fortunately contains a pristine print from the Library of Congress vaults, as well as the original theatrical trailer and a featurette and commentary track from the director's son, Frank Capra, Jr.
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on December 6, 2014
Fans of Frank Capra have reason to celebrate with three of the directors films being released recently on Blu-ray in the last few weeks. Released this week by Sony in time for it's 75th Anniversary, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"(1939) joins Criterion's "It Happened One Night" and Kino's "Pocketful of Miracles" in what can only be described as a spectacular Blu-ray that is one of the best of the year. Mastered in 4K with a Bitrate of 24.93, "Mr. Smith" has never looked better with a nearly pristine picture that should please fans of the film. Gone are the vertical lines, torn frames, dirt and white specks that marred the standard DVD versions of the film in the past and Sony has done an exceptional job in restoring the film to it's original condition. According to the liner notes by Grover Crisp in the included booklet, the restoration of "Mr. Smith" has been on-going since 1990 and was a challenge as "the original negative suffered great damage through over-printing at the time of release" but "for this restoration as much as the original negative as possible was used" instead of "poorly made duplicates". The results of that years long restoration by Sony are certainly impressive. Blacks, whites and grays are evenly balanced and some scenes are so crystal clear you can see the smallest details such as the white hairpiece and surrounding make-up on Claude Rains. Sony has showed the respect and care this great film deserves by presenting "Mr. Smith" in an attractive 24 page Digibook that is packed with information concerning the making of the film. Anyone viewing the film will certainly notice that things haven't changed all that much in our nation's capital after 75 years and may have gotten worse. The storyline of a naive and idealistic young Senator suddenly exposed to a cesspool of corruption by an institution he greatly admires stands up as well in today's cynical times as it did in 1939. The acting is top notch, with James Stewart giving one of the greatest performances of his long career. He gets great support from Jean Arthur, Thomas Mitchell, Claude Rains and Edward Arnold among the excellent cast. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is 129 minutes(Aspect ratio: 1.37:1) and contains the following subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese(Brazil), Japanese, Greek, Italian, Korean, Chinese(Mandarin) and Thai. The Audio(DTS-HD MA) is English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. There are a lot of Special Features including conversations with Frank Capra Jr. and a documentary on Frank Capra hosted by Ron Howard. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is one of the greatest films ever made. Now that Sony has honored it with their superb new Blu-ray presentation it should be an essential addition to every home film library and comes very highly recommened.
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on February 10, 2009
Almost anyone who watches movies very much has heard of this classic film about political corruption. People who have not watched it in a long time or have never seen it will be surprised at how topical it is, and how sharp in its critique of Washington insider politics. The claim that this re-issue has been improved by a new digital remastering process is not false. The older version wasn't really bad, but this one is noticeably better, if not by a lot. People who really love this movie a lot will appreciate it.
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on December 16, 2014
"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is one of the great movies in the canon of American cinema. The downside of that is that a lot of copies have been made over the years, leaving the original camera negative in tatters. Film from poorly made dupes was spliced in where the original camera negative was destroyed entirely. The DVDs of this movie allowed a new generation of filmgoers to see this amazing movie, but the picture showed obvious signs of wear and tear.

For this Blu-Ray, Grover Crisp and his team at Sony Pictures went back to the original camera negative, scanned what is left in at 4K resolution, and meticulously restored it. For the parts that had been replaced with poorly made dupes, they searched for the best possible later generation film elements they could find, including Frank Capra's personal copy of the film, and scanned them in at 4K as well -- and restored them just as meticulously. They used the audio track from Frank Capra's personal print and employed all the latest tools to make it sound clear as a bell.

There are a few hiccups that even all of their hard work couldn't iron out, but this is still a miracle of a restoration. As presented on Blu-Ray, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" looks better than it has in decades, and probably sounds the best it ever has.
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on July 18, 2000
I can still remember the first time I watched the crushing scene of Jimmy Stewart's filibuster in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." I was six years old; I was up way past my bedtime, and my parents were both weeping. I looked at the screen; I looked at my parents. I was utterly confused, but I knew that whatever this man was saying had to be important. I can still remember gasping when he collapsed. I didn't see the movie again until after high school, and when I watched it for the first time, aware of what was happening, I found myself crying. When my parents were watching it, Vietnam was in full force; when I watched it, Reagan was denying the lies of Iran-Contra. I still believe that America can be the place Jefferson Smith believed it to be; in many ways, it is this movie which continues to feed that belief. Not because the movie itself creates that belief, but that every single person I have ever watched it with can't hold back when they get to the end of the filibuster. Jefferson Smith's loss is our loss, and his hope is our hope, more than sixty years after the film was made.
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on January 16, 2007
This would have to be one of the best movies ever produced by Hollywood under the auspices of the Frank Capra genius. Over 70 years old and it hasn't aged or lost its power - a remarkable achievement by any measure. Replace the typewriters with PCs, and the telephones with mobile phones, and you have a story as relevant and powerful today as it was when it was released in 1939. Perhaps it is sad to say that little has changed in politics or human nature since this film was released but that is why it is so important for people to view this film at least once. Capra understood human nature and he understood the basis of evil, courage and human spirit. This film embodies all these attributes. It is a movie masterpiece. Everyone should see this film at least once. Those who have seen it once will see it again and again. Released the same year as "Gone with the Wind" and, ironically, losing out on academy awards to same, "Mr. Smith" is the movie whose plot has remained as important as ever - that is, that even the most sophisticated and well conceived democratic institutions are, of themselves, insufficient to preserve democracy unless they elicit the participation of great men. Or, as John Stuart Mill once wrote, in 1867, "Bad men need nothing more to compress their ends than that the good men should look on and do nothing". In this film, Jefferson Smith is a man who has chosen to do something, and to thereby endeavor to make democracy work. To this end, those who live in a democracy, and particularly its youth, should watch and learn because the lesson here is profound and far reaching.

Jimmy Stewart is at his all time best; Claude Rains, Edward Arnold and Jean Arthur are all brilliant. This movie is moving, powerful, funny, poignant and relevant to the 21st Century. One has to ask where such talent exists in today's movie making - apparently talent, writing skills and acting skills have all given way to special effects and big explosions.

Those who like this should also see Frank Capra's other masterpieces, including "Lost Horizon", "Meet John Doe" and "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town".
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HALL OF FAMEon July 22, 2002
I first watched this wonderful movie about six months after I arrived in America from a country where there was little personal freedom. I had just taken an ESL American history class in high school, and had understood little. This movie was simply a great eye-opener for me, a foreigner with little notion of the American freedom.
Capra's masterpiece depicted an America rife with with corruption, with lies and ruthless men to whom America was a money and power machine. Against this backdrops stands Jefferson Smith, the hero, who is picked as a stooge senator for his home state by the political machine. (The original screen play identifies the state as Montana; Capra said it was Illinois; but isn't Jackson City the capital of Mississippi?) His innocence and ideals -- and incorrutibility -- immediately warm the heart of every audience member. He's indeed the light in the dark tunnel, the hope for every American who feels that what this great country stands for is shamelessly disregarded and discarded by our politicians.
The classic filibuster scene is such a joy to watch, esp. for people who don't quite get what a filibuster is. (Of course, how Mr. Smith could go on talking for 23 hours 16 minutes without going to the toilet puzzles me.) The movie also lucidly explains how a bill is written, submitted for consideration, debated, compromised, and finally sent for vote, in the House and the Senate. It's both an entertaining and educational movie.
The filibuster scene may strike some us lecturing. Indeed, the senators in the movie turn a deaf ear to the earnest speeches of Mr. Smith. Democracy, freedom, accountability, "government of the people by the people for the people", all mean nothing to these people. Equally amazing, when the film was screened by Congress in 1939, they damned the film as un-American for depicting them as thieves and stooges. Alas, in film and in real life, politicians are simply people without a conscience. As a naturalized American, I feel all these people should be executed, for betraying the very basic foundation of this country.
I re-watched the movie recently in the aftermath of Sept. 11. My eyes became wet as I listened to Mr. Smith begging his colleagues to wake up their conscience. It's a shame that our politicians, ranging from George W. Bush to the donkeys in Congress to some judges, are still thieves, clowns, and traitors to the American ideal of universal liberty. Every day they chip away at the foundation of America by allowing corrupt business leaders to rob the nation of its wealth, by letting terrorists come in at ease and killing us at will, and by turning blind eyes and deaf ears at the plight of the middle class. Like Senator Paine in the movie, every politician of today pretends they represent the people, while in fact they represent nothing but their selfish needs.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is IMHO the best movie of all time. It's not because it has great acting or fancy special effects. It's because it addresses an endangered concept, first brought forth by America's founding fathers, the concept that this country was to be better than any other country, past or present. And I'm not talking about just being richer or having more Playstation games.
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on November 3, 2014
Jefferson Smith: "Get up there with that lady that's up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won't just see scenery; you'll see the whole parade of what Man's carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting." Another great film from 1939, this Frank Capra classic is one of the greatest political dramas ever made...ranking #26 on AFI's "100 Years, 100 Films", with Jefferson Smith ranking the #11 hero on AFI's "!00 Years, 100 Heroes". Jean Arthur got lead billing as she was the biggest star at the time; but this is a Jimmy Stewart film and it made a big star our of him. Naive and idealistic Jefferson Smith (Stewart) is appointed on a lark by the spineless governor of his state. He is reunited with the state's senior senator--presidential hopeful and childhood hero, Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains) In Washington, however, Smith discovers many of the shortcomings of the political process as his earnest goal of a national boys' camp leads to a conflict with the state political boss, Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold). He is ably assisted by his secretary, Clarissa Saunders (Arthur). Capra's previous films, such as "Mr Deeds Goes to Town" and "You Cant Take it With You", had emphasized the decency of the common man; however this film is more pessimistic as the decent common man is surrounded by a venal, petty and thuggish group of crooked politicians. Nevertheless, Smith’s filibuster and the tacit encouragement of the Senate President (Harry Carrey) are both emblematic of the director's belief in the difference that one individual can make. This theme would be expanded further in "It's a Wonderful Life" and other films. In addition to the actors named, look for a star-studded array of the best character actors of the era. Outstanding cinema!
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