Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
1939 film by Frank Capra
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a 1939 film about a naive and idealistic man who is appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn't back down.
- Directed by Frank Capra. Written by Sidney Buchman, based on the story "The Gentleman from Montana" by Lewis R. Foster.
Capra at his greatest! Taglines
- My Dad had the right idea. He had it all worked out. He used to say to me, "Son, don't miss the wonders that surround you; because, every tree, every rock, every ant hill, every star is filled with the wonders of nature." And, he used to say to me, "Have you ever noticed how grateful you are to see daylight again after coming through a long, dark tunnel?" Well, he'd say, "Always try to see life around you, as if you'd just come out a tunnel."
- [After reading the Declaration of Independence] Now, you're not gonna have a country that can make these kind of rules work, if you haven't got men that have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose. [The Senate applauds] It's a funny thing about men, you know. They all start life being boys. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if some of these Senators were boys once. And that's why it seemed like a pretty good idea for me to get boys out of crowded cities and stuffy basements for a couple of months out of the year. And build their bodies and minds for a man-sized job, because those boys are gonna be behind these desks some of these days. And it seemed like a pretty good idea, getting boys from all over the country, boys of all nationalities and ways of living. Getting them together. Let them find out what makes different people tick the way they do. Because I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a - a little lookin' out for the other fella, too...That's pretty important, all that. It's just the blood and bone and sinew of this democracy that some great men handed down to the human race, that's all. But of course, if you've got to build a dam where that boys camp ought to be, to get some graft to pay off some political army or something, well that's a different thing. Oh no! If you think I'm going back there and tell those boys in my state and say: 'Look. Now fellas. Forget about it. Forget all this stuff I've been tellin' you about this land you live in is a lot of hooey. This isn't your country. It belongs to a lot of James Taylors.' Oh no! Not me! And anybody here that thinks I'm gonna do that, they've got another thing comin'. [He whistles loudly with his fingers in his mouth, startling Senators who are dozing or reading other materials] That's all right. I just wanted to find out if you still had faces. I'm sorry gentlemen. I-I know I'm being disrespectful to this honorable body, I know that. I- A guy like me should never be allowed to get in here in the first place. I know that! And I hate to stand here and try your patience like this, but EITHER I'M DEAD RIGHT OR I'M CRAZY.
- [His voice very hoarse, from his filibuster] There's no compromise with truth. That's all I got up on this floor to say. When was it? A year ago, it seems like....Just get up off the ground, that's all I ask. 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. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so's he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That's what you'd see. There's no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties. And, uh, if that's what the grownups have done with this world that was given to them, then we'd better get those boys' camps started fast and see what the kids can do. And it's not too late, because this country is bigger than the Taylors, or you, or me, or anything else. Great principles don't get lost once they come to light. They're right here; you just have to see them again!
- [His voice very hoarse] I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don't know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for, and he fought for them once, for the only reason any man ever fights for them: Because of one plain simple rule: Love thy neighbor. And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You know that rule, Mr. Paine. And I loved you for it just as my father did, and you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any others. Yes, you even die for them, like a man we both knew, Mr. Paine. You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked, and I'm gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause, even if this room gets filled with lies like these! [takes a handful of the letters in the basket and throws them on the floor]. When the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place, somebody'll listen to me! Some--- [Faints from exhaustion]
Senator Joseph PaineEdit
- I was hoping you'd be spared all this. I was hoping that you'd see the sights, absorb a lot of history, and go back to your boys. Now you've been living in a boy's world, Jeff, and for heaven's sakes, stay there! This is a man's world. It's a brutal world Jeff, and you've no place in it. You'll only get hurt. Now take my advice. Forget Taylor and what he said. Forget you ever heard of the Willet Creek Dam...I know it's tough to run head-on into facts but, well as I said, this is a man's world Jeff, and you've got to check your ideals outside the door, like you do your rubbers. I know how you feel, Jeff. Thirty years ago - I had those ideals, too. I was you. I had to make the decision you were asked to make today. And I compromised - yes! So that all these years I could stay in that Senate - and serve the people in a thousand honest ways! You've got to face facts, Jeff. I've served our state well, haven't I? We have the lowest unemployment and the highest federal grants. But, well, I've had to compromise, had to play ball. You can't count on people voting, half the time they don't vote, anyway. That's how states and empires have been built since time began. Don't you understand? Well, Jeff, you can take my word for it, that's how things are. Now I've told you all this because - well, I've grown very fond of you - about like a son - in fact, and I don't want to see you get hurt. Now, when that deficiency bill comes up in the Senate tomorrow, you stay away from it. Don't say a word. Great powers are behind it, and they'll destroy you before you can even get started. For your own sake, Jeff, and for the sake of my friendship with your father, please, don't say a word.
- H.V. Kaltenborn: [speaking on the radio] Half of official Washington is here to see democracy's finest show, the filibuster, the right to talk your head off, the American privilege of free speech in its most dramatic form. The least man in that chamber, once he gets and holds that floor by the rules, can hold it and talk as long as he can stand on his feet providing always, first, that he does not sit down, second, that he does not leave the chamber or stop talking. The galleries are packed. In the diplomatic gallery are the envoys of two dictator powers. They have come here to see what they can't see at home. DEMOCRACY IN ACTION.
- H.V. Kaltenborn: [Speaking on the radio] Senator Smith, has now talked for 23 hours and 16 minutes. It is the most unusual and spectacular thing in the Senate annals. One alone and simple American, holding the greatest floor in the land. What he lacked in experience, he's made up in fight. But those tired Boy Ranger legs are buckling. Bleary eyed, voice gone, he cannot go on much longer. And all official Washington is here to be in on the kill.
- Jefferson Smith: Did you ever have so much to say about something, you just couldn't say it?
- Clarissa Saunders: Try sitting down.
- Jefferson Smith: I did - I got right back up again.
- Clarissa Saunders: Now look. Let's get down to particulars. How big is this thing? Where's it gonna be? How many boys will it accommodate? You've got to have all of that in it, you know.
- Jefferson Smith: Yeah, yeah, and something else, Miss Saunders. The uh, the spirit of it. The idea - the - [He snaps his fingers] How do ya say it? [He walks to the window in which the lighted Capitol Dome is seen. He points out at the Dome] That's what's got to be in it!
- Clarissa Saunders: What?
- Jefferson Smith: The Capitol Dome.
- Clarissa Saunders: On paper? [She lifts her eyebrows a little]
- Jefferson Smith: I want to make that come to life for every boy in this land. Yes, and all lighted up like that too! You see, you see, boys forget what their country means by just reading 'the land of the free' in history books. And they get to be men - they forget even more. Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: 'I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't. I can. And my children will.' Boys ought to grow up remembering that.
- James Taylor: What did you mean "count me out"?
- Joseph Paine: You can't pull that steamroller stuff. Your methods won't do here. However it happened, this boy's a Senator. This is Washington, Jim!
- James Taylor: My steamroller methods don't go here? They've done pretty well by you.
- Joseph Paine: This boy is different. He's honest. He thinks the world of me. We can't do this to him!
- James Taylor: Should I just stand around and let that drooling infant wrap that Willet Creek dam appropriation around my neck? Not me. Either he falls in line or I'll break him so open they won't find the pieces.
- Joseph Paine: Jim, I won't stand for it.
- James Taylor: You won't stand for it?
- Joseph Paine: I don't want any part of crucifying this boy.
- James Taylor: Our steamroller methods are getting too hard for your sensitive soul? The Silver Knight is getting too big for us. My methods have been all right for the past twenty years. Since I picked you out of a hole in the wall and blew you up to look like a senator. And now you can't stand it. Maybe you don't have to. You and the boy ranger can go home together.
- Joseph Paine: Jim, you don't have to...
- James Taylor: It's all right. Seems a shame to part company after all these years.
- Jefferson Smith: You sure had the right idea about me, Saunders. You told me to go back home, keep fillin' those kids full of hooey. Yeah. Just a simple guy you said was still wet behind the ears. A lot of junk about American ideals. Yeah, that's certainly a lot of junk, all right...I don't know. This is a whole new world to me. What are you gonna believe in? And a man like Paine, Senator Joseph Paine gets up and swears that I've been robbing kids of nickels and dimes. A man I've admired and worshiped all my life. There are a lot of fancy words here. Some of them are carved in stone, some of them men like Taylor put up there. So suckers like me could read them. Then you find out what those men actually do. I'm getting out of this town so fast. Away from all the words, the monuments, the whole rotten show.
- Clarissa Saunders: I see. When you get home, what are you gonna tell those kids?
- Jefferson Smith: I'll tell 'em the truth. Might as well find it out now as later.
- Clarissa Saunders: I don't think they'll believe you, Jeff. You know, they're liable to look up at you with hurt faces and say, 'Jeff, what did you do? Quit? Didn't you do something about it?'
- Jefferson Smith: Well, what do you expect me to do? An honorary stooge like me against the Taylors and Paines and machines and lies...
- Clarissa Saunders: Your friend Mr. Lincoln had his Taylors and Paines. So did every other man whoever tried to lift his thought up off the ground. Odds against 'em didn't stop those men. They were fools that way. All the good that ever came into this world came from fools with faith like that. You know that Jeff. You can't quit now. Not you! They aren't all Taylors and Paines in Washington. Their kind just throw big shadows, that's all. You didn't just have faith in Paine or any other living man. You had faith in something bigger than that. You had plain, decent, every day, common rightness. And this country could use some of that. Yeah - so could the whole cock-eyed world. A lot of it. Remember the first day you got here? Remember what you said about Mr. Lincoln? You said he was sitting up there waiting for someone to come along. You were right! He was waiting for a man who could see his job and sail into it. That's what he was waiting for. A man who could tear into the Taylors and root 'em out into the open. I think he was waiting for you Jeff. He knows you can do it. So do I.
- Jefferson Smith: What? Do what, Saunders?
- Clarissa Saunders: You just make up your mind you're not gonna quit and I'll tell you what. I've been thinkin' about it all the way back here. It's a forty foot dive into a tub of water, but I think you can do it.
- Jefferson Smith: Clarissa, where can we get a drink?
- Clarissa Saunders: [slapping his knee] Now you're talkin'!
- President of Senate: The Chair recognizes... Senator Smith!
- Jefferson Smith: Thank you, sir.
- Clarissa Saunders: Diz, here we go.
- Jefferson Smith: Well, I guess the gentlemen are in a pretty tall hurry to get me out of here. The way the evidence has piled up against me, I can't say I blame them much. And I'm quite willing to go, sir, when they vote it that way - but before that happens I've got a few things I want to say to this body. I tried to say them once before, and I got stopped colder than a mackerel. Well, I'd like to get them said this time, sir. And as a matter of fact, I'm not going to leave this body until I do get them said.
- Senator Joseph Paine: Mr. President, will the Senator yield?
- President of Senate: Will the Senator yield?
- Jefferson Smith: No, sir, I'm afraid not, no sir. I yielded the floor once before, if you can remember, and I was practically never heard of again. No sir. And we might as well all get together on this yielding business right off the bat, now.
- [laughter from the gallery]
- Jefferson Smith: Now, I had some pretty good coaching last night, and I find that if I yield only for a question or a point of order or a personal privilege, that I can hold this floor almost until doomsday. In other words, I've got a piece to speak, and blow hot or cold, I'm going to speak it.
- Senator Joseph Paine: I wish to ask my distinguished colleague, has he one scrap of evidence to add now to the defense he did not give and could not give at that same hearing?
- Jefferson Smith: I have no defense against forged papers!
- Senator Joseph Paine: The Committee ruled otherwise! The gentleman stands guilty, as charged. And I believe I speak for every member when I say that no one cares to hear what a man of his condemned character has to say about any section of any legislation before this House.
- President of Senate: Order, order, gentlemen.
- Jefferson Smith: Mr. President, I stand guilty as FRAMED! Because section 40 is graft! And I was ready to say so, I was ready to tell you that a certain man in my state, a Mr. James Taylor, wanted to put through this dam for his own profit. A man who controls a political machine! And controls everything else worth controlling in my state. Yes, and a man even powerful enough to control Congressmen - and I saw three of them in his room the day I went up to see him!
- Senator Joseph Paine: Will the Senator yield?
- Jefferson Smith: No, sir, I will not yield! And this same man, Mr. James Taylor, came down here and offered me a seat in this Senate for the next 20 years if I voted for a dam that he knew, and I knew, was a fraud. But if I dared to open my mouth against that dam, he promised to break me in two. Alright, I got up here, and I started to open my mouth, and the long and powerful arm of Mr. James Taylor reached into this sacred chamber and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck!
- Diz Moore: [dictating into phone] In protest, the whole Senate body rose and walked out.
- Clarissa Saunders: No! No, not that straight stuff. Now listen, kick it up, get on his side, fight for him! Understand?
- Diz Moore: You love this monkey - don't you?
- Clarissa Saunders: What do you think? Now listen, go to work. Do as I tell you, you do know that, don't you?
- Diz Moore: [into phone] Throw out that last, take this. This is the most titanic battle of modern times. A David without even a slingshot rises to do battle against the mighty Goliath, the Taylor machine, allegedly crooked inside and out. Yeah, and for my money and an extra bonus prize, you can cut out the "allegedly."
- Capra at his greatest!
- Stirring - In the seeing! Precious - In the remembering!
- Capra's Greatest Hit --- The Screen At Its Most Inspired!
- Entertainment As Powerful As the Strength of the People! As Great As the Genius of Capra!
- Romance, drama, laughter and heartbreak ... created out of the very heart and soil of America ... by a great director and cast!
- James Stewart - Jefferson Smith
- Jean Arthur - Clarissa Saunders
- Claude Rains - Sen. Joseph Harrison Paine
- Edward Arnold - Jim Taylor
- Guy Kibbee - Gov. Hubert 'Happy' Hopper
- Thomas Mitchell - Diz Moore
- Eugene Pallette - Chick McGann
- Beulah Bondi - Ma Smith
- H.B. Warner - Sen. Agnew (Senate Majority Leader)
- Harry Carey - The Vice President
- Astrid Allwyn - Susan Paine
- Ruth Donnelly - Emma Hopper
- Grant Mitchell - Sen. MacPherson (Privileges and Elections Committee)
- H.V. Kaltenborn - Himself (broadcaster)