Mr. Smith goes to Washington

James Stewart is Jefferson Smith, is a boy scout leader who is thrown into the world of politics at the sudden demise of a US senator in an unnamed state in the south west. As he realizes his situation and the state of the nation, he soon discoveres that his simple plans have no place in the massive venal political machine.

Mr. Capra, often criticized for creating this unreal fantastic world without cynisism but full of remorse -- a 'Capra-esque' world. Mr. Captra uses this with knowledge with extra ordinary skill. He knows he needs to make the movie entertaining for the masses and at the same time he plays almost within the rules and keeps the story fairly within the boundry. He is a master craftsman. A man who is so fully aware of what he wants. To me the most important aspect of his movies, and specially this one, is an idea of what an orhtodox American dream must have meant to some people. The rant of equality and liberty and pursuit of happiness as it existed before being trampled on by fear and greed.

It is clearly evident that this movie is a sort of a pre-cursor to the 1941 classic 'Meet John Doe'. Mr. Capra tries to build the character of a lone crusader in a big bad world and takes it to its logical conclusion two years later.

Jimmy Steward plays the kind of character that is really second nature to him. He is excellent as a man who is honest and smart but definely no wiley. He is not a fool but he is not street smart either. He has dreams but they are not flashy. He has ideas but they are grass root. He is a simple man. He is a good man. He is useless in Washington. He is a threat to the common norms of organized governance and its implicit deal makings. He is dangerous.

Jean Arthur is quite brilliant in a role that does not seem to be fully developed. She is Smith's secretary who understands exactly what Smith is about and exactly what will happen to him. It is also clear that Mr. Capra blows her up into Barbara Stanwyck's Ann Mitchell in Doe.

This is another major victory for Mr. Capra. A movie that shows how governor's young children help him decide who the next senator must be. It tells us about this young senator who is so enamoured on reaching Washington that he elopes on a trolly tour of the city. It tells us about the perseverance of a common man in the extended last scene that is a classic by any standards. This is a funny, poignant movie with moments of pure genious. It takes you in its comfortable lap and sways across the boundry of real and fantastic and that is what the business of movie-making is all about.