LEADERSHIP: Art imitates life in classic 1939 film

I have a suggestion for Donald Trump, members of his administration, and for anyone not old enough to have seen the film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” released in 1939.

Watch it!

I did last night…again. Seventy-nine years later, the “plot” hasn’t changed much, in fact, has thickened — corruption in government, control by special interests (now, the NRA among others), payoffs, turmoil in Congress, etc.However, there is one distinct difference in the Hollywood version and, sadly, what is happening today.

James Stewart makes us believe in our country and its greatness envisioned by our founders. Certain scenes might bring tears to your eyes as it did mine.

A naive, deep-rooted idealist, Stewart, in the role of Jeff Smith, is appointed to a vacant Senate seat and expected to simply fill it, nothing more.

He’s so thrilled to get his first glimpse of the U.S. Capitol, he disappears upon arrival for half the day when he boards a tour bus to visit the magnificent Washington monuments.

When Smith takes his senate seat, he immediately introduces a bill to the amazement of the colleagues. It becomes apparent his bill conflicts with legislation in progress for two years and nearing completion. The latter bill is a corrupt scheme to build a dam that would line the pockets of a controlling “lobbyist,” forcefully played by Edward Arnold.

Nearly expelled from the Senate and headed out of Washington with his bags, Smith is persuaded by his secretary to fight back and does. After nearly 24 hours of on-his-feet filibustering, Smith exposes the sins of the Senate and collapses from exhaustion.

Masterfully directed by Frank Capra and nominated for 11 Academy Awards, curiously the movie won only one Oscar — for original story, penned by Sidney Buchman.

Stewart’s performance is superb as are those of many in supporting roles, among them, Arnold, Thomas Mitchell, Claude Rains, Harry Carey as president of the Senate and Jean Arthur as Smith’s secretary. Installed in the U.S. National Film Registry in 1989, it is, of course, a fictional story with a Hollywood “feel good” ending.

As of now, I don’t feel good about how our current government is performing.

Jack Hawn

Sun City West

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