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Mr. Smith Goes to Washinton/A,B+

Columbia/1939/130m/FS 1.33/BW

     No matter how many times I see this film it never fails to bring tears to my eyes or choke me up at various moments. The exact scene is not quite predictable and I can’t be sure if it’s "sense memory" bringing me back to an earlier time when the cynical strains of adulthood hadn’t yet taken over my being. Smith is a fresh experience for me each time. I have never marveled quite so at the brilliance of James Stewart as the wide-eyed Senator. I just sort of took his passion for granted. It is a brilliant performance. This is a great film and must rank amongst my very favorites.
     Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was a very controversial film in its day. Filmed with war raging in Europe, many were sensitive to director Capra’s portrayal of corruption in Washington’s highest places. Good triumphs over evil at the conclusion of the film, but the queasiness over the extent of political corruption is forever an unsettling reminder of what goes on behind closed doors in the power centers of our country.
     Director Frank Capra got it just right with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Capra combines charm, humor, drama, and Americana brilliantly. No element of this film is out of harmony. Sentimental scenes of Jeff Smith contemplating the world in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial are balanced by a delicious bit of business with a hat as Smith meets socialite Susan Paine. Capra’s actors are at their best in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Alongside Stewart’s great work, Jean Arthur brings her cynical screen siren to delightful life. Claude Raines’ eloquent delivery of dialogue as Senator Joseph Paine resonates with the haunting beauty of loss. Edward Arnold is equally brilliant as bullying political boss Jim Taylor, Thomas Mitchell compliments Arthur’s work wonderfully as correspondent Diz Moore, and Harey Carey brings a generous helping of humanity to the role as Vice President.
     Overall, this laser reissue of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a very good looking disc. Some evidence of film element damage is visible, but it is mostly confined to specs of dirt or an errant scratch, and it never gets in the way of the pure pleasure provided by this beautiful film. The black and white palette is presented with a full range and the film has been transferred in consistently crisp visual style. The mono sound does not have a harsh edge nor is there an undue amount of recording hiss. This screen classic belongs in every laser collection. It is truly a part of our heritage.