On Oct. 17, 1939, Frank Capras Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, starring James Stewart, premiered in the nation s capital. The film won 11 Academy Awards, including the original story category, and was nominated for 11 Oscars. The Hollywood Reporters original review, titled Mr. Smith Goes to Town; Due for BoxOffice Success, is as follows:
Frank Capra has a new smash hit in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It is a feat for which Capra and all of his aides may feel utterly content. Capra misses nothing when he adapts Lewis Fosters tale of the young senator, whose faith in the United States constitution remains unshaken, even though every member of Washington shady political apparatus strikes with the most deadly force imaginable. There is flag waving, but not too much. Mr. Capra manages to incorporate it into the picture in the right amount.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as it is shown on the screen, is the story of a young man with lofty ambitions and ideals who, through no choice of his own, becomes senateman by his state. With these ideals and values, Mr. Smith arrives in Washington only to be stopped everywhere he turns by the machine that wants to use him. When his secretary gives him that little pep talk that inspires him to fight back, he is about to give up. Broken and discouraged, however, the young man is ready to renounce his faith when his boss orders him back. He does just that, and after a long fight on the senate floor, he breaks the machine.
James Stewart is the perfect choice for the role of the naive, idealistic Mr. Smith. Stewart delivers the most impressive performance of his career under Frank Capra's guidance. Jean Arthur as Saunders, the secretary, is a masterwork. She stays in touch with Mr. Stewart for the acting honors.
Claude Rains gives an excellent performance as the senator who once held the same ideals and values as Mr. Smith but was forced to run by the machine in order to remain in office. Edward Arnold as the newspaper publisher and machine chief, as well as Guy Kibbee, the governor, Eugene Pallette, Beulah Bondi, and Ruth Donnelly, give a splendid performance in the role of Edward Anderson as Bertie Palette, beulan Bond, or Beua Bond. Thomas Mitchell performs superbly. Other supporting players, too many to list, are vital to the picture's success.
Joseph Walker's photography expertise, which plays a significant role in making this photograph one of the most noteworthy of its year, assisted Capra in the production of his photograph. Staff review, first published on Sept. 8, 1939.