Sam Foley, senator, suddenly dies,
And his state’s governor has to just improvise
When he’s caught between voters and James Taylor too,
A tycoon who owns him and says what to do.
They now need a stooge to replace dear old Sam,
Who won’t get in the way of a scandalous dam.
To avoid inquisitions and pleading the fifth,
They go with the unwitting Jefferson Smith.
Beloved by Boy Rangers, Smith seems quite the choice,
So naïve (they think) that he won’t have a voice.
While Taylor and most politicians are realists,
Jeff Smith is among the few wide-eyed idealists.
Jeff goes on a tour when he comes to D.C.,
And leaves people searching for the green absentee.
He turns up at last at his office, unwary,
And meets a Miss Saunders, his own secretary.
He speaks with the press, but he loses his cool
When they twist his words, making him look like a fool.
Then Senator Paine, whom Jeff holds in esteem,
Suggests he should write a bill to realize his dream
Of a national boys’ camp set up by a stream.
Jeff writes it with Saunders, but Taylor’s men wilt
When they hear it’s the stream where that dam’s to be built.
Some scrutiny might just expose Taylor’s graft,
So he offers to bribe Jeff or give him the shaft.
When Jeff learns the truth and will not let it lie,
Paine, who’s in Taylor’s pocket, becomes the bad guy.
He lies to the Senate, accusing Smith wrongly
Of graft himself, spouting his calumny strongly.
Paine set Jeff up well, for his name is defamed,
And his anger and shock make him look most ashamed.
The Senate’s about to expel Smith to jail,
But Saunders and he will not let lies prevail.
Smith takes to the floor, and, with all he can muster,
He makes the truth known in a great filibuster.
Jeff’s boys fight for him against the Taylor machine,
Who won’t let the truth of Jeff’s speeches be seen.
Even when Jeff’s at the end of his rope,
When Paine has tried all to demolish his hope,
Smith says he’ll fight on, but he can’t help but wilt.
It’s then that Paine’s filled with such terrible guilt,
That he comes clean, insisting that Smith’s in the right.
Although he’s unconscious, Smith still wins the fight.
Considering that Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is one of the great 1939 movies and is in the top 30 on AFI’s list of the greatest films, it might seem strange for me to put it at #358. It’s a very well-made film, but, despite its exceptional cast and message, it angers me more than any film should. The scenes where Jeff is publicly shamed by Taylor’s lies enrage me because such things still happen in today’s politics, such as with Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin. This realism detracts from the film’s entertainment value and makes Paine’s sudden turnaround at the end unlikely and unrealistic. Nevertheless, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a classic of classics with a bravura performance from Jimmy Stewart. The powerful scenes at the Lincoln Memorial and during Smith’s filibuster are worth “the price of admission”, so to speak.
Best line: “Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders.” Amen!
VC’s best line: “You had faith in something bigger than that. You had plain, decent, everyday common rightness, and this country could use some of that.” Double Amen!!
Visual Effects: N/A
Other (unrealistic ending): -2
TOTAL: 27 out of 60
Tomorrow: #356: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
© 2014 S. G. Liput