- Dec 9, 2001
- Fishkill, NY
- Real Name
- Rich Gallagher
Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is one of the most famous and beloved films ever made. It was nominated for no less than eleven Academy Awards in a year which saw the release of such classics as Gone With the Wind, Stagecoach, and The Wizard of Oz, to name just a few. Sony has now released it on Blu-ray with a nearly-pristine transfer and a nice array of special features.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Other
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 9 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, OtherDigiBook
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 12/02/2014
I wonder if this Don Quixote hasn't got the jump on all of us.Mr. Smith Goes to Washington opens with the announcement that a U.S. Senator from an unidentified Middle America state has died suddenly. Governor Hopper (Guy Kibbee), the state's ineffectual chief executive, has to appoint someone to fill out the deceased Senator's term. Governor Hopper takes his marching orders from Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold), a party boss who stands to make a fortune when Congress passes a bill authorizing the construction of a dam on land which Taylor and his associates have secretly purchased. They want the new Senator to be a compliant man who will do whatever they say. However, Governor Hopper's constituents balk when he proposes to appoint one of Taylor's stooges, so he ends up selecting Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), a political neophyte who is something of a local hero because of his work with boys and his heroism in putting out a forest fire.It turns out that Smith's father was a friend of the state's living Senator, Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), who unbeknownst to Smith is now a corrupt politician who is working hand in hand with Taylor in the scheme to build the dam. Senator Paine is certain that he can control Smith and he advises Taylor to go along with the appointment.When Smith arrives in Washington he is so wide-eyed with excitement that he wanders off from his entourage and spends the day taking a sightseeing tour of the city. When he finally arrives at his Senate office he meets Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), the deceased Senator's secretary. Saunders is constantly threatening to quit her job but is persuaded by Senator Paine to stay on. Saunders (no one uses her first name and everyone calls her just "Saunders") is single and has spent all of her life in the D.C. area. Diz Moore (Thomas Mitchell) is a heavy-drinking reporter who wants Saunders to marry him, but she is content to be his friend.Saunders is convinced that Smith is hopelessly naive, but she nevertheless helps him to draft his first piece of legislation, a bill which would create a summer camp for boys on the very land where Taylor and Senator Paine have planned to build their dam. When Saunders finally tells Smith what his friend Senator Paine is up to, she advises him to pack up and go home because he can't stop the dam project "in 9 million years."James Stewart deservedly garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, but the supporting cast is just as good. Jean Arthur excels as the hard-boiled Saunders, who begins to fall for Smith in spite of herself. Harry Carey, who plays the Vice-President, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, as was Claude Rains for his portrayal of Senator Paine. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was nominated for Best Picture (but lost to Gone With the Wind) and Frank Capra was nominated for Best Director (the award went to Victor Fleming).
The Production Rating: 5/5
While the transfer of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is not perfect - if by perfect we mean flawless - it is nothing short of miraculous. The DigiBook in which the Blu-ray disc is encased includes an essay by Sony's Grover Crisp about the restoration. The goal was to use the original film negative as much as possible, but some of it was beyond repair and other sources had to be utilized. As a result, writes Mr. Crisp, "...there are sections throughout the film where the image quality slightly shifts at the beginning or end of certain shots."The black & white image is properly framed at 1.37:1. Joseph Walker's cinematography shines, with excellent contrast and black levels. Art Director Lionel Banks did an amazing job of recreating the floor of the U.S. Senate on the Columbia lot.Our resident expert, Robert A. Harris, has declared that this is nothing less than "a master's class in film restoration." I encourage readers to check out all of Mr. Harris' remarks and the interesting discussion which follows.A few words about...™ Mr. Smith Goes to Washington -- in Blu-ray
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The excellent English 1.0 DTS HD-MA audio was harvested primarily from Frank Capra's personal nitrate print, which was struck from the original camera negative in 1939. The result is a soundtrack which is crystal-clear and free of age-related anomalies. The music score by the great Dimitri Tiomkin is given as pleasing a soundstage as possible.
Audio Rating: 5/5
There are many worthwhile extras on this Blu-ray disc.There is an interesting and informative commentary track by the late Frank Capra Jr. Many readers may not realize that he produced the wholly unnecessary 1977 remake, Billy Jack Goes to Washington."Frank Capra's American Dream" is a feature-length documentary which is hosted by Ron Howard.Also included are five featurettes:1. "Frank Capra Jr. Remembers...Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"2. "Conversations with Frank Capra Jr.: The Golden Years"3. "Conversations with Frank Capra Jr.: A Family History"4. "Frank Capra: Collaboration"5. "The Frank Capra I Knew" (the reminiscences of Jeanine Basinger, curator of the Frank Capra Archives at Wesleyan University)The Blu-ray disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer and its international trailer. The international trailer includes footage which was cut prior to the film’s release.The DigiBook includes an essay about the film by Jeremy Arnold, the aforementioned essay by Grover Crisp, numerous still photographs, and partial filmographies of James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, and Frank Capra.
Special Features Rating: 5/5
As an exposé of political corruption, Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a genuine crowd-pleaser which was enthusiastically embraced by American filmgoers in the historically monumental year of 1939. Capra, an immigrant from Italy who died in 1991 at the age of 94, would undoubtedly be dismayed by how the influence of money on our political process has increased over the years. Even so, it is difficult to watch this film without coming away with the belief that there is still a place for honest politicians in Washington. This outstanding Blu-ray release is attractively priced and is highly recommended.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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