Frank Capra's controversial 1939 film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" tells the story of a young, naïve and inexperienced politician who is brought to Washington to replace the recently-deceased fictional Senator Samuel Foley. The film has a number of themes, but one that stands out beyond most is the idea that the press controls the public's opinion of a politician. They can make one out to be either a dedicated, hard-working public servant or a self-centered, power-hungry individual. Through the use of characters such as Governer Hopper, Jim Taylor, Senator Paine, and Chick McGann, we see how Capra views politics in Washington. When Mr. Smith (James Stewart) is appointed, he is unable to recognize why he was chosen. However, we soon find out that it is not because of Smith's desire to work in Washington that he was hired- or his values- but rather the fact that, as a young and naïve "kid," Hopper and Taylor feel that he'll be an easy person to influence and vote for their corrupt Willet Creek Dam project. Smith's first encounter with the press turns out to be a disaster. He is asked what projects he would like to push and then takes the opportunity to reveal his plans for a summer boy's camp. He also jokes around wit . . .
Smith simply will not compromise no matter what his former Washington hero has to say. In the end, Paine reveals that he is responsible for Smith's ignominy and demands his own expulsion. At this point, we finally see something we haven't seen in the film thus far: an honest press. Smith later sees the paper and is outraged at how the press portrayed him. Smith begins to understand how politics work in Washington and is extremely upset by it. Taylor talks with Smith and tries to make him understand the ways of politicians. However, Jim Taylor's men soon discover what is happening and physically force the boys to stop the distribution. The rest of the Senate is outraged and they order an investigation into the actions of Smith. This...
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