preview

Mr. Smith In Lewis R. Foster's The Gentleman From Montana

Good Essays
True to Capra’s approach, Mr. Smith is not an intellectual exercise about the fine points of the United States government. Like its director, it doesn’t dawdle over details; not once does this film about the U.S. Senate utter the words “Republican” or “Democrat,” nor does it ever reveal which state Senator Jefferson Smith hails from. (The unpublished book the film is based on, Lewis R. Foster’s The Gentleman From Montana, takes a decidedly less ambiguous approach.) Written, shot, and released in the midst of one of the most tumultuous periods of American history, Mr. Smith barely addresses any of the many important issues of its day, from the Great Depression to the war that had just broken out in Europe. Critics then and now have knocked Mr. Smith for failing to engage with the complex practicalities of governance. But Capra never wanted to inform his audience; he wanted to inspire them. There are no Democrats or Republicans, no “right” or “wrong” party, because that would limit his influence on the people whose side prevailed. References to the Depression or World War II would have only dated it; instead, the film remains timeless and universal. Mr. Smith isn’t about politics, it’s…show more content…
Stewart, who was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania—perhaps the most Midwestern-sounding city in history—exuded a wholesome all-American presence that was ideal for the role of Jefferson Smith, the naïve newspaper publisher and leader of the “Boy Rangers” (he’s literally a Boy Scout) who’s chosen to replace a senator who died several months before the end of his term. Smith’s state is secretly controlled by a media baron named Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold), whose financial backing has helped both its governor (Guy Kibbee) and its other senator, Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), get elected and stay in power. Taylor permits Smith’s selection because he believes the young journalist, who has no political background whatsoever, will be easy to
Get Access