Tag Archives: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Actress: Jean Arthur

 

Jean Arthur's three films with Frank Capra -- "You Can't Take It With You," "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" -- established her as one of the greatest comedic actresses of all time. Uploaded by the-frame.com.

I’ll readily admit that Jean Arthur isn’t as well known today as some of her contemporaries. But during the 1930s and 1940s she reigned as one of Hollywood’s leading leading ladies, especially in the comedy genre. Robert Osborne, host on the network where you can still see Jean Arthur’s films (Turner Classic Movies), called her “the quintessential comedic leading lady.”

While she made a couple of dozen films during the Twenties and early Thirties, her breakout role came when Frank Capra cast her as a tough newspaper reporter who fell in love with a country bumpkin. The country bumpkin was Gary Cooper (Great American Things, April 28, 2010) and the film was Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Capra loved her distinctive voice and pretty girl-next-door

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looks, and cast her in two more hits, both with Jimmy Stewart (Great American Things, April 8, 2009): You Can’t Take It with You and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Arthur also made several comedies (Only Angels Have Wings and The Talk of the Town) with Cary Grant, who was considered more of a comic actor than a leading man early in his career. She was nominated for an Academy Award for 1944’s The More the Merrier. Arthur all but retired after that year, only appearing in two more movies, one of which was the classic Shane.

Arthur eventually taught drama, first at Vassar College (where Meryl Streep was one of her students), then here in Winston-Salem at the North Carolina School of the Arts. One of the skills she stressed with her classes was the art of being natural on stage and film. She said, “I had to learn that to appear natural on the screen requires a vast amount of training, that is the test of an actor’s art.”

Films: The Movies of 1939

 

The Wizard of Oz is universally regarded as one of the best movies of all time - yet you could argue that there were at least a half dozen better in 1939. Uploaded by jreynoldsart321.wordpress.com.

For unknown reasons, some years just happened to feature more great movies than others. From time to time, we’ll feature the films of a particularly outstanding year as a Great American Thing. We’re starting with 1939, which some consider the best year ever in movies. Once you look at the films released that year, you may find yourself in agreement. Some of the best, in alphabetical order:

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Beau Geste – Gary Cooper in the French Foreign Legion. With Ray Milland, Robert Preston, and Susan Hayward.

Destry Rides Again – A Western, directed by George Marshall and starring Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.

Gone With the Wind – Winner of the Academy Award, from amongst all these films, for Best Picture. See Great American Things, April 28, 2009.

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips – A British film, directed by Sam Wood and starring Greer Garson and Robert Donat as Mr. Chips.

Gunga Din – Cary Grant fighting for the Empire in Colonial British India. With Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Joan Fontaine, and Sam Jaffee as the title character.

Hound of the Baskervilles – One of two films in 1939 (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was the other) pairing Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson.

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Hunchback of Notre Dame – The best of many versions of this story. With Charles Laughton as Quasimodo and Maureen O’Hara as Esmerelda.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – One of Frank Capra’s common man rises to heroic status films, starring Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur. Nominated for eleven Academy Awards.

Ninotchka – Greta Garbo laughs! A great comedy, co-written by a young Billy Wilder and directed by Ernest Lubitsch.

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Of Mice and Men – The Steinbeck classic brought to life by William Wyler. Aaron Copland composed the score. Nominated for four Academy Awards.

Stagecoach – Another John Ford western, featuring Claire Trevor and starring John Wayne in his breakout role.

Wizard of Oz – Judy Garland takes us down the yellow brick road, and ultimately somewhere over the rainbow. Only a modest hit upon its release, you can understand why when you see its competition here. Won three Academy Awards.

Wuthering Heights – Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in the Emily Bronte classic. Earned eight Academy Award nominations.

Young Mr. Lincoln – Directed by John Ford, starring Henry Fonda as Abraham Lincoln.

Director: Frank Capra

Not only did Capra win three Best Director Oscars, he propelled the careers of Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, and Cary Grant.

Frank Capra saw himself as a member of the “gee whiz” school of filmmaking, and made no apologies for it. Capra’s movies featured what is good in humanity, and have even had a word coined to describe their world view — capraesque. He said, “To some of us, all that meets the eye IS larger than life, including life itself. Who can match the wonder of it?”

Capra got his start in movies as a gag writer for silent film comic Harry Langdon at Mack Sennett’s studio. Langdon promoted Capra to director, but the erratic actor soon fired him. It wasn’t long before the struggling studio Columbia Pictures hired Capra, who, following a series of modestly successful small pictures, hit it big with It Happened One Night. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert sparkled, the movie won five Academy Awards (including Gable’s only Oscar), and Capra’s reputation was sealed.

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Capra was declared the hottest director of the 1930s in a Time Magazine article. In addition to It Happened One Night (Best Picture, Best Director), prior to World War II Capra directed Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Best Director), Lost Horizon, You Can’t Take It With You (Best Picture, Best Director), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Best Picture, Best Director), and Meet John Doe.

Following the war, Capra created what’s considered his masterpiece, though it wasn’t perceived quite so well at the time of its initial release. It’s a Wonderful Life (Great American Things, December 1, 2009) rode the wave of American post-war optimism and is the ultimate “capraesque” film. In addition to Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, Capra was instrumental in the careers of Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant, and Jean Arthur. (Capra once called Arthur his favorite actress.)

My favorite Frank Capra quote: “I thought drama was when the actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries.”