Can we get back to politics please?
Actually, I’d rather not. This election has been so astonishingly disgraceful, it’s hard to watch the events unfold and not feel as though our democracy is on the verge of falling into oblivion. But whenever I feel my faith in the American experiment begin to wane, I turn on Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, starring James Stewart, Claude Rains, and my all-time favorite leading lady, Jean Arthur.
The first time I saw this film was actually in my 8th grade American history class… It’s the only memorable thing from that class. But I do remember thinking, even back then, “This film is amazing,” and I had never been so transfixed by the concept of American politics. This film ignited an interest I didn’t know I could have in our national history.
There are few films that get to the heart of so-called American ideals in quite such a beautiful and entertaining way. Through the eyes of an American history expert and Junior Senator, Jefferson Smith (Stewart) appointed, with the intent from his colleagues, to be nothing more than a seat-filling-stooge, the film exposes corruption in Washington DC, the Senate, and the political system at the time…. Even though the film was released in the banner film year of 1939, it remains remarkably relevant today.
Jefferson Smith has his ideals and beliefs shattered when he tries to stand up to a bill loaded with graft. He thinks he’s finished, and is about to high-tail it home, but with the counseling of his wise-cracking secretary Saunders (Arthur) he launches a filibuster brimming with enough constitutional coolness to defeat the “big bad Taylor machine,” even if it nearly kills him.
This film is near perfect. Actually, scratch that, I think it is perfect. And any American or American resident feeling disillusioned with our political system should give it a watch. You’ll feel empowered, proud, and like your living your life “like you just came out of a tunnel.”