Mr. Smith Goes to Washington “Screen on the Green” is an annual tradition where locals from the area go to the National Mall in between the National Monument and the Capital. The film is played on an enormous screen that faces the capital. I attended this event during the feature film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” which played August 26. The significance that the Capital Dome had in the background as this film played gave the movie even more significance to the viewer.
I rented the movie to view it in the privacy of my home where I could rewind and fast forward the film at my leisure to capture some of the artistic techniques and applications that the producer, director and actors exhibited throughout this movie. This movie is a black and white film, and while it is after the era of the silent picture show, the sound quality is still not all that good, but nevertheless, the sound does not play a significant role in the film.
The genre for this film is a mixed genre, conveying the genres of both drama and a romantic comedy. The reason the film is considered these genres, is because of the images used throughout the film. The close up shots of the couple, Clarisse Saunders (Jean Arthur) and Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) are angled just so that the shot is a head shot that positions her directly under him as if they are at an angle to kiss, before they have even begun a formal relationship.
Comedy is apparent by the images of Jefferson Smith’s clumsiness, awkwardness, and ignorance. In one scene, with a particular girl he meets and finds attractive, there is a constant fidgeting, restlessness, and clumsiness of Jefferson Smith. He drops his hat over 6 times in a scene that lasts relatively 3 minutes as he tries to compose himself while he speaks to this attractive lady. Content of this movie is pretty evident…good v. evil. There are also elements of nationalistic pride, honor, duty, honesty, patriotism, and sincerity.
The story plot depicts a man who is selected by powerful and corrupt men to become senator because he is naive, unsuspecting, and seems to be easily run over. He accepts the opportunity, though confused as to why he is the best candidate, to become senator, and hence becomes an unlikely hero. Jefferson Smith represents the naive ness that is so treasured in children and untainted, sincere hearts, and something that we all would like to claim we are- honest and sincere.
Clarissa Saunders, a staff person who worked for the former Senator of Kansas and then for Smith when he was appointed, represents those who have been exposed too long to the scandals, the lies and the heart-aches of the “real-world” and she has been calloused to the society in which she lives, finding it entertaining at first, to watch those who are naive, such as Senator Smith, suffer humiliation, and there is the idea that she too was once herself, bright-eyed and an idealist.
There is also the unlikely hero portrayed in the “Junior Senator” whom everyone in the Senate has jeers at when he stands his ground and there are distance shots of him as he slowly fades in health and stamina as he tries to filibuster the Senate by talking non-stop until the Senators relinquish their efforts to build the damn or time to consider the bill dies. The setting is one of the most effective tools the director and screen writer did to make movie have the content it does today.
The film takes place in Washington D. C. The setting brings a sense of nostalgia to the film, and patriotism. In a sequence of using several montages, the character seems to visit every monument and historical place in Washington D. C. in a series of about a couple of minute’s movie time, and what is portrayed to take him a few hours. Through the setting, the city itself is used to exemplify the sense of patriotism.
With various shots of historical monuments and figures, the setting provides for much of the pride that comes with the character of Senator Jefferson Smith. These historical, significant and patriotic images in this montage, are shown in such a manner that it seems Jefferson Smith was able to visit all the historical places in the Nation’s Capital in a single day. These images of various locations in D. C. ffer historical background, even though the timing suggested that he was able to visit them all was unrealistic. To show the impressiveness of these images, and the pride that Jefferson Smith has for his country and for his newly elected position, the audience gets this overwhelming sensation of patriotism as well as the sequence of images as the towering National Monument, historical Capital, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials are flashed on screen, one directly after the other.
Other obvious images that enter the montage are an image of a bald eagle, the words “Equal Justice,” shown as they appear on the Supreme Court Building and the famous words written in the Constitution, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. ” Another image that adds to the patriotic, nostalgic feeling is the small child reading an inscription of the Lincoln Memorial, and the elder man who is tearing up in the background with his hand on his heart. An image of these two classic Americans is useful in adding to the patriotism of the film.
Images are used to bring a “once-upon-a-timeness” to the audience by allowing them to connect with the grandson or grandfather. Images also portray the movie content, that sincere goodness will prevail or evilness, as the struggling, unsuspected hero stands in ground in Congress, tired, weary, and alone fighting against the evil corruptness of Taylor, and finally, after countless hours, prevails as the hero. To portray the evil, cynical side of politics, Mr.
Taylor, the wealthy, corrupt businessman who is forceful, powerful, and controls many politicians by blackmail, is shown in dark clothes, with dark features. He is towering over the other senators, and looms over them when talking to them, as if in an intimidating manner. Images add to not only the content but also to the type of genre of this movie. The comedy of the movie is made even more apparent by the clumsiness of Jefferson Davis when his nervousness around a lady makes him “suave challenged. ” One of the most effective uses of imagery for this is the close up shot of his hands.
All the audience sees are images of his hands fidgety, and clumsily turning his hat, and becomes at a loss for words. He also becomes clumsy and awkward as he trips over himself and knocks over things in the home of Senator Paine’s home. These images bring to mind his negative qualities, suggesting that Susan Payne, an insincere, somewhat greedy daughter of Senator Paine. Conversely, images of Saunders and Smith while working together are shown as close-ups, with lighting on her face to make her appear to have a younger, more beautiful glow about her.
Sound does have a slight significance in adding to the effect of the content of the movie. The sounds quality overall is poor throughout the movie, an example being the loud popping noise that is heard when Mr. Smith punches other individuals of the press, a somewhat unreal and fake sound, compared to the sound quality used today. Sounds that were resourceful and effective were the patriotic songs that were played simultaneously as the images of the Capital, the National Monument, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial nd the Arlington Cemetery were portrayed on the screen. Participative experience is undoubtedly something that happened without anyone’s awareness. Though most people have never been and probably never will be elected into any sort of office, Jefferson Smith represents the common man, and his naive ness, sincerity, and strong moral character draws people in, and he brings out the best qualities that we see in our selves at times.
He is also the “one-in-a-million” person that is an “ordinary Joe,” (or in this case, your ordinary Jeff), who gets the chance by fate to do something extraordinary- something that all of us would probably jump at the chance to do, and makes the most of this opportunity, saving American values, and restoring order and goodness to a corrupt system, making himself the hero in an unlikely situation.
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