Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) - Rotten Tomatoes

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington1939

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)



Critic Consensus: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington -- and returns with an uplifting ode to idealism that distills the strengths of its director and leading man.

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Movie Info

Frank Capra's classic comedy-drama established James Stewart as a lead actor in one of his finest (and most archetypal) roles. The film opens as a succession of reporters shout into telephones announcing the death of Senator Samuel Foley. Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), the state's senior senator, puts in a call to Governor Hubert "Happy" Hopper (Guy Kibbee) reporting the news. Hopper then calls powerful media magnate Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold), who controls the state -- along with the lawmakers. Taylor orders Hopper to appoint an interim senator to fill out Foley's term; Taylor has proposed a pork barrel bill to finance an unneeded dam at Willet Creek, so he warns Hopper he wants a senator who "can't ask any questions or talk out of turn." After having a number of his appointees rejected, at the suggestion of his children Hopper nominates local hero Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), leader of the state's Boy Rangers group. Smith is an innocent, wide-eyed idealist who quotes Jefferson and Lincoln and idolizes Paine, who had known his crusading editor father. In Washington, after a humiliating introduction to the press corps, Smith threatens to resign, but Paine encourages him to stay and work on a bill for a national boy's camp. With the help of his cynical secretary Clarissa Sanders (Jean Arthur), Smith prepares to introduce his boy's camp bill to the Senate. But when he proposes to build the camp on the Willets Creek site, Taylor and Paine force him to drop the measure. Smith discovers Taylor and Paine want the Willets Creek site for graft and he attempts to expose them, but Paine deflects Smith's charges by accusing Smith of stealing money from the boy rangers. Defeated, Smith is ready to depart Washington, but Saunders, whose patriotic zeal has been renewed by Smith, exhorts him to stay and fight. Smith returns to the Senate chamber and, while Taylor musters the media forces in his state to destroy him, Smith engages in a climactic filibuster to speak his piece: "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 gonna leave this body until I do get them said." ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

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James Stewart
as Jefferson Smith
Jean Arthur
as Clarissa Saunders
Claude Rains
as Sen. Joseph Harrison Paine
Edward Arnold
as Jim Taylor
Guy Kibbee
as Gov. Hopper
Thomas Mitchell
as Diz Moore
Harry Carey
as Senate President
Beulah Bondi
as Ma Smith
Astrid Allwyn
as Susan Paine
Ruth Donnelly
as Mrs. Emma Hopper
Grant Mitchell
as Sen. MacPherson
Porter Hall
as Sen. Monroe
Pierre Watkin
as Sen. Barnes
Dick Elliott
as Bill Griffith
H.B. Warner
as Majority Leader
H.V. Kaltenborn
as Broadcaster
Johnny Russell
as Larry Simms
Ken Carpenter
as Announcer
Jack Carson
as Sweeney
Baby Dumpling
as Hopper Boy
Fred Hoose
as Senator
Harry A. Bailey
as Senator Hammett
Joe King
as Summers
Stanley Andrews
as Sen. Hodges
Walter Soderling
as Sen. Pickett
Frank Jaquet
as Sen. Byron
Ferris Taylor
as Sen. Carlisle
Carl Stockdale
as Sen. Burdette
Alan Bridge
as Sen. Dwight
Edmund Cobb
as Sen. Gower
Frederick Burton
as Sen. Dearhorn
Vera Lewis
as Mrs. Edwards
Dora Clement
as Mrs. McGann
Erville Alderson
as Handwriting expert
Laura Treadwell
as Mrs. Taylor
Eddie Fetherstone
as Senate reporter
Ann Doran
as Paine's Secretary
Sam Ash
as Senator Lancaster
Douglas Evans
as Francis Scott Key
Frank Austin
as Inventor
Wade Boteler
as Family man
Myonne Walsh
as Jane Hopper
Al Bridge
as Sen. Dwight
Byron Foulger
as Hopper's Secretary
Billy Watson
as Peter Hopper
Delmar Watson
as Jimmie Hopper
Maurice Cass
as Handwriting expert
John Russell
as Otis Hopper
Harry Watson
as Hopper Boy
Garry Watson
as Hopper Boy
John Ince
as Senator Fernwick
Larry Simms
as Hopper Boy
Clyde Dilson
as Reporter
Jack Cooper
as Photographer
Evalyn Knapp
as Reporter Asking 'What Do You Think of the Girls in This Town
Dub Taylor
as Reporter
Jack Gardner
as Reporter
Alec Craig
as Speaker
Donald Kerr
as Reporter
Eddie Kane
as Reporter
Beatrice Curtis
as Paine's secretary
Robert Walker
as Senator Holland
George McKay
as Reporter
Gene Morgan
as Reporter
Victor Travers
as Senator Grainger
Matt McHugh
as Reporter
Rev. Neal Dodd
as Senate chaplain
William Arnold
as Senate Reporter
Hal Cooke
as Senate Reporter
Helen Jerome Eddy
as Paine's secretary
Jack Egan
as Senate Reporter
Eddy Chandler
as Senate Reporter
Eddie Fetherston
as Senate Reporter
Ed Randolph
as Senate reporter
Vernon Dent
as Senate reporter
Harry Hayden
as Speaker
Craig Stevens
as Senate Reporter
Louis Jean Heydt
as Soapbox speaker
Ed Brewer
as Senate Reporter
Lloyd Ingraham
as Committeeman
Anne Cornwall
as Senate reporter
James Millican
as Senate reporter
Mabel Forrest
as Senate reporter
Dick Jones
as Page boy
Nick Copeland
as Senate reporter
Dulce Daye
as Senate Reporter
Milton Kibbee
as Senate Reporter
Frances Gifford
as Hopper Girl
Wyndham Standing
as Senator Ashman
Wright Kramer
as Senator Carlton
Dorothy Comingore
as Woman at Station
Arthur Loft
as Chief clerk
June Gittelson
as Woman at Station
Hank Mann
as Photographer
Dave Willock
as Senate guard
Philo McCullough
as Senator Albert
Florence Wix
as Committeewoman (uncredited)
Harlan Briggs
as Mr. Edwards- Howling Citizen (uncredited)
Lafe [Lafayette] McKee
as Civil War veteran
Count Stefanelli
as Foreign Diplomat (uncredited)
Evelyn Knapp
as Reporter
Alex Novinsky
as Foreign diplomat
Frank O'Connor
as Senator Alfred
Frank Puglia
as Handwriting expert
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Critic Reviews for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (8)

James Stewart is the perfect choice for the role of the naive, idealistic Mr. Smith. Under Frank Capra's guidance Stewart turns in the finest performance of his career.

October 17, 2021 | Full Review…

This is classic Capracorn.

August 29, 2012 | Full Review…

Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is going to be the big movie explosion of the year, and reviewers are going to think twice and think sourly before they'll want to put it down for the clumsy and irritating thing it is.

February 15, 2011 | Full Review…

Wonderful classic movie for the family.

December 26, 2010 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

One of the finest and consistently interesting dramas of the season.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

Quintessential Capra - popular wish-fulfilment served up with such fast-talking comic panache that you don't have time to question its cornball idealism.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington


James Stewart and Jean Arthur are both amazing in this magnificent political drama - a film still relevant when it comes to corruption and our powerless indignation reflected in an idealistic young Senator who boldly demands honor from the ones betraying their vows in Washington.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Frank Capra's tale of an idealistic, yonug junior senator's revelation about, (and subsequent revolution against) Washington's rampant corruption is among his finest (and most typical) works. This film is easily one of the cornerstones for stories about the pure hero standing up for truth, justice, and the little guy, no matter how daunting the opposition and odds of success. It's cliched with how heartwarming and feel good, and unsurprising it all is, but nevertheless is a very great film. Jimmy Stewart cemented his status as a legend his, and this is one of his best and archetypical roles. He really brings the feverish determination of his everyman hero to life and delivers a great guy you can't help but root for. Supporting him are notable names like Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, and Edward Arnold, among others, all of whom deliver some strong performances. The writing is sharp, the direction strong, and the cinematography and editing are pretty top notch, especially for the time. And of course, the message is quite timeless and still relevant. All in all, this is one of the greats. It's overly simplistic, sentimental, and idealistic, but we do need films like this, and I will always defend Capra and his work for this reason, even if I don't want to watch this sort of thing all the time.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

I could watch this movie a million times and still get chills when he won't yield. The only film I really feel like deserves a standing ovation when the credits roll.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

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