Saturday, October 17, 2009

70 Years Ago Today. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Opens

As I have said on this blog earlier this year, 1939 was the best year ever for Great Films. Besides Gone with the Wind and the Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Jimmy Stewart's and Director Frank Capra's greatest film, premiered that year.

In case you have not seen it, this was a highly political film for it's time. It shows clear corruption in the United States Senate, portrays professional politicians in a very unflattering light. I take this from Wikipedia:

When it was first released – the film premiered in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., on October 17, 1939, sponsored by the National Press Club, an event to which 4000 guests were invited, including 45 senators – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was attacked by the Washington press, and politicians in the U.S. Congress, as anti-American and pro-Communist for its portrayal of corruption in the American government. While Capra claims in his autobiography that some senators walked out of the premiere, contemporary press accounts are unclear about whether this occurred or not, or whether senators yelled back at the screen during the film.

However, the film ultimately was more frightening to the totalitarian Nazi and communist governments of the time; they must have been amazed that democratic freedom of speech allowed it's production. World War 2 had stated about six weeks earlier. From Wikipedia:

The film was banned in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Soviet Russia and Falangist Spain. According to Capra, the film was also dubbed in certain European countries to alter the message of the film so it conformed with official ideology.
When a ban on American films was imposed in German-occupied France in 1942, some theaters chose to show Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as the last movie before the ban went into effect. One theater owner in Paris reportedly screened the film nonstop for 30 days after the ban was announced.
Here is just one scene showing how Jimmy Stewart takes on the establishment.

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