When we watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on Monday, I was frankly prepared to be bored. I generally consider films from the 80s to be too old to bother with, never mind a film from 1939. But on Monday, I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was. Many of the film’s funny moments still got a laugh, such as when the coin landed on its side or Jeff kept dropping his hat. I was also charmed by Jeff’s relationship with Saunders, since she was the skilled and knowledgeable one of the pair and stayed that way throughout the film. Oftentimes the female love interest will start out being much better than her male partner, but over the course of the film he will somehow surpass or at least equal her skills and become the most important figure in whatever struggle there is (see Antman and The Lego Movie). While Jeff does become the focal point of the conflict here, he is still looking to Saunders for cues throughout the whole filibuster. It is his sincerity and spirit which make him strong, and it foils nicely with Saunders’ strategic mind. But in the end, it was the message that really made this film enjoyable. As we know, the American people’s satisfaction with the government is at an all time low, and seeing a film about a hopeful politician trying to make a difference is very heartwarming. And I am a little embarrassed to admit that I did shed a tear or two at the end.
With all this in mind, I recalled from the lecture that this movie got some heat from all sides when it first debuted. I did some digging to see what sort of reception this film got and found that, after the movie’s debut, the Senate majority leader said it “makes the Senate look like a bunch of crooks” and the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain worried that the film would damage America’s reputation in Europe. The Boy Scouts themselves wanted no part in the movie, thus leading to the fictional Boy Rangers. This all sounds bad but there’s something to be said about the fact that we are still talking about it in a film class today and that the film enjoys a very high rating on RottenTomatoes, if that means anything, One thing’s for sure, this movie has definitely affected my perspective on what “old” movies can be.