Crowd Pleasers

film 3 of 3

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Draft Review by Dean Duncan May 26, 2015

This has holes in it, because in addition to the many, many superb scenes–the opening death, dinner at the governor’s house, Jeff’s touching nomination meeting, the irresistible liberty montage capped by the powerful recitation at the Lincoln memorial, etc.–there are a bunch of implausibles and stretches of actual dryness, all the manoevrings that get our hero into and out of trouble look contrived on this viewing, and actually strain, Jim Taylor is boringly unnuanced, Claude Rains’ daughter isn’t convincingly attractive (these parts were thankless in the golden age), Harry Carey, for all his iconicness, giggles once too often, even the filibuster we always rave about has a figurative boom mike in the shot: it’s just too contrived!; still, it’s full of good star and character turns, and it manages in a pretty amazing way to mix great disappointed cynicism (centred in the Arthur character) with the Smith patriotic naiveté, character and film having converted the spikey Jean, and so, us, the unlikely event of right actually prevailing is something we actually end up buying, and this acknowledgment of both sides and then affirming what’s decent is ultimately something to rejoice in