Why We Love Classic Movies … #06

#06 – “Well, I’m not licked!”

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939

American Idealism. Remember that? Well, if you don’t, give Frank Capra’s sweet land of liberty love song a whirl. That so-called ‘innocence’ we’re supposed to have once had but lost? It’s all there. More specifically, here, in Mr. Smith’s climactic speech on the Senate floor. The filibuster. The lone beacon of truth and moral integrity amidst a powerful torrent of political corruption.

Was that America ever anything but a fairy tale? Have the good guys and the bad guys ever been as black-and-white as Mr. Smith and Senator Payne? Even in those seemingly halcyon days of Frank Capra Patriotism? Probably not. But Capra’s belief in the fairy tale is excruciatingly earnest and the performances he pulls from his actors are altogether unforgettable.

(James Stewart really ought to have take Oscar home that year — a sin for which the Academy atoned by giving him gold the next year for his decidedly fluffy role in The Philadelphia Story, which butted Henry Fonda from the Oscar HE deserved for Grapes of Wrath and … oh, you know how the Academy is.)

So, fittingly, as you watch this iconic moment, remember well the words of Margaret Mitchell: “Look for it only in books … for it is no more than a dream remembered. A civilization gone with the wind.”

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Film writer and social media marketing professional. 2019 Social Ambassador for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Previously: social media associate at Warner Archive and script writer for Turner Classic Movies. Working on a Montgomery Clift biography due late 2020.

One thought on “Why We Love Classic Movies … #06

  1. Yeah, I love Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and it’s a shame it didn’t win any Oscars (although I believe Gone With the Wind certainly deserved the awards it received).

    Stewart is a phenomenal actor, and nowhere is this more evident than in Mr. Smith. Still, I very much enjoyed him in The Philadelphia Story.

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