History Main / MrSmithGoesToWashington

27th Jan '13 4:50:07 AM erforce
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[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mr_smith_goes_to_washington_1595.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:350: Go ahead; write your Congressman. It really frustrates them.]]

->''Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say, "I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will."''
-->--'''Jefferson Smith''', doing {{Eagleland}} proud

A film from 1939, directed by FrankCapra, starring JimmyStewart, Jean Arthur, and ClaudeRains. One of Capra's greatest works.

A senator dies in the middle of his term, and the state Governor has to pick a replacement. The crooked political machine would like one candidate, but this man is already known to take positions unpopular with the populace of that state; there are petitions to pick a radical for the office.

The Governor decides to TakeAThirdOption: He picks someone who is highly idealistic but inexperienced in politics, whom he thinks the political machine can keep under control. This person, this new senator, is Mr. Jefferson Smith, his son's Scout Master.

Mr. Smith gets to meet his idol, the other senator for his state, who did great things for the state many years ago and who was a personal friend of Smith's father. He's controlled by the machine now, but Mr. Smith isn't really aware of the machine yet.

Once in Washington, he also meets his chief of staff/secretary--a very beautiful, intelligent FemmeFatale. She does have a heart of gold, but she's an utter cynic.

Now, there is one problem the state machine has with Mr. Jefferson Smith. Mr. Smith has ''one'' issue he supports--building/improving a Boy Scout camp by a major river in the state. But one of the main goals of this machine is to '''dam''' the river (to produce profit for the machine boss, who owns some of the land), which would wipe out many of the natural attractions Mr. Smith hopes to preserve. So, the senior senator and his secretary have to prevent Mr. Smith from voting against the dam, decoying him away from a session where a crucial preliminary vote on the issue is held by sending him on a date with the senior senator's daughter.

Mr. Smith tries to protest the decision within the Senate, but when he yields the floor to the senior senator of his state, he is framed for ethics violations and it is moved that the Senate should consider expelling him. He almost resigns, but his secretary begs him to fight, asking, what would the Boy Scouts he led before becoming junior senator think of politics if he quit now?

So, he doesn't quit. Instead, he holds a ''very'' long [[HoldingTheFloor filibuster]], never yielding the floor, never stopping, reading the Bible and the Constitution and the rules handbook, all to buy time for his supporters to send signs of his support. His supporters--many of them too young to vote--do try to show their support, but the machine is actively fighting them...

Eventually, BagsOfLetters do flood in, but the machine has successfully swayed public opinion through the media, and the most of the public is against Smith. He declares his intention to keep on fighting in an impassioned speech about how sometimes lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for, then collapses from exhaustion. Overcome by guilt, the senior senator has a VillainousBreakdown. Smith is vindicated.
----
!! Tropes:

* AbrahamLincoln: The Lincoln Memorial is an important part of a few scenes.
* {{Adorkable}}: Mr. Smith himself. Especially when he's around Susan Payne, who he has a crush on at first.
* AllStarCast: Good lord! JimmyStewart, Jean Arthur, ClaudeRains, Edward Arnold, Thomas Mitchell, Harry Carey, Eugene Pallette, Beaulah Bondi, and H.B. Warner.
* AffablyEvil: Taylor
* TheAllAmericanBoy: Mr. Smith is a perfect grown-up example, as well as all the Boy Rangers.
* ArtisticLicenseLaw: The filibuster scene. Between 1919 and 1975, a filibuster could be stopped by a vote of two-thirds majority of all senators present (after 1975, it was changed to three-fifths of all total senators: 60). In the movie, the Senate majority and minority leaders can be seen collaborating with each other against Smith, implying that the entire Senate is against him, but somehow powerless to stop him. The movie also specifically shows that the entire Senate is ignoring Smith when he starts his filibuster.
* BadassNickname: Paine is known as "The Silver Knight"
* BagsOfLetters: Mr. Smith expects his filibuster to sway public opinion in his favor, but he is presented with bags of letters that reveal public opinion has turned against him. The mass of letters almost makes Smith lose hope.
* BastardlySpeech:
** Paine's speech near the end is one of the best.
** Taylor criminalizing Mr. Smith using his media machine is basically this trope on a enormous level
* BloodOnTheDebateFloor: Sort of, at the end, when Sen. Smith is dizzy with exhaustion and dehydration after having talked on the floor of the Senate for 24 hours.
* BrokenPedestal: Senator Paine
* CharacterFilibuster: Literally. Never before has a political filibuster been so dramatic.
* CollapsedMidSpeech: Mr. Smith does this at the climax of the film.
* CorruptCorporateExecutive: Taylor is a newspaper magnate by trade.
* CorruptPolitician: Paine
* CountryMouse: Jeff Smith. Many Frank Capra protagonists are in this mold.
* TheDeterminator: Mr. Smith. "You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked. And I'm going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if the room gets filled with lies like these, and the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place."
* {{Eagleland}}: At first glance a Flavor 1, with the idealistic Jefferson Smith visiting the Lincoln Memorial and saying things like the page quote. However, the movie also shows bosses like Taylor owning senators like Paine and manipulating them for their corrupt ends. This pushes the movie closer to the Mixed type.
* EmbarrassingFirstName: ''Clarissa'' Saunders.
* {{Expy}}: The "Boy Rangers", due to the Boy Scouts of America's fierce defense of the use its copyrighted name.
* {{Fainting}}: Smith collapses of exhaustion during his filibuster
* FallenHero: Paine, who was once a crusading reformer like Smith's father but at some point in the past sold out to the Taylor machine.
* {{Fanservice}}
* FemmeFatale
* TheGovernment
* GovernmentConspiracy
* GovernmentProcedural
* GuileHero: Smith
* HauledBeforeASenateSubcommittee: Mr. Smith, thanks to Taylor's attempt at character assassination. However, when he sees [[spoiler:that Sen. Payne is willing to perjure himself]], he storms out of the room without saying anything.
* HeadsTailsEdge
* HeelFaceTurn: Sen. Paine; see VillainousBreakdown below.
* HeroWithBadPublicity: Smith's approval ratings drop heavily in his home state during the filibuster
* HeroicRROD: One of the most epic examples. In the climax he literally speaks his heart out, over the course of it his voice gets fainter, he grows stubble, and his gets paler than even Black and White movie standards. He never gives up, but his body does when he passes out.
* HoldingTheFloor: Maybe the most iconic example in fiction. Articles about filibuster reform in the United States feature pictures of James Stewart a lot.
* HotAndCold: Saunders. She warms up to Mr. Smith over the course of the story.
* [[INeverSaidItWasPoison I Did Not Say That Mr. Payne Was One Of The Men In That Room]]
** [[SubvertedTrope "I was in that room!"]]
* IncorruptiblePurePureness: Jefferson Smith.
* InterruptedSuicide: Offscreen with Sen. Paine--we hear a gunshot and cut to Paine, who is having a gun wrested from his hands.
* IntrepidReporter: Diz
* JustInTime
* TheMole: The secretary, sort of.
* NiceGuy: Jeff Smith.
* NobleDemon: Sen. Joseph Harrison Paine
* NobodyPoops: Smith's filibuster lasts 26 consecutive hours, during which he cannot sit down or leave the room. There are certain bodily functions that cannot be delayed for 26 hours. In RealLife, Strom Thurmond had to purposefully dehydrate himself for a full day in a sauna before his record-breaking filibuster (24 hours, 18 minutes against the 1957 Civil Rights Act) so that he would not have to go to the bathroom, and, at one point, even forced a page to hold a bucket outside the Senate while he pissed in it... one foot still on the Senate floor.
* ObstructiveBureaucrat: Congress itself is described like this.
* {{Paparazzi}}: The D.C. press. Justified, because they are very cynical about politics.
* ThePlan
* PlatonicLifePartners: Diz and Saunders
* PostVictoryCollapse: happens a little earlier than Jeff would have liked.
* PropagandaMachine: Taylor has a fearsome one. It is easy to forget, in this modern media age, how owning a couple of radio stations and a newspaper or two could at one time allow an individual to control the public discourse in a rural area, at least for a short time.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: The Vice President
* ScoutOut: The "Boy Rangers" after the Boy Scouts of America refused to participate.
* SesquipedalianSmith: Jefferson Smith
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism
* StrawmanNewsMedia: Type 1!
* ThrowingOutTheScript: A Capra staple trope.
* TakeAThirdOption: The Governor's selection of Mr Smith.
* UnwittingPawn: The idea is that Smith will be a placeholder until the Taylor machine can elect one of its own people.
* VillainousBreakdown: Paine, after Jeff collapses. "Expel me! Not that boy! I'm not fit to be a Senator! I'm not fit to live!"
* UsefulNotes/WashingtonDC
* WeNeedADistraction
* WhereTheHellIsSpringfield: The state represented by Senator Jefferson Smith is not named. (Though it's supposed to be Montana.)
* WideEyedIdealist: Dear Wide Eyed Jefferson Smith.
* WouldHurtAChild: Taylor's thugs. They deliberately crash into a car full of Boy Rangers trying to deliver their own newspaper in support of Smith.

----

to:

[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mr_smith_goes_to_washington_1595.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:350: Go ahead; write your Congressman. It really frustrates them.]]

->''Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say, "I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will."''
-->--'''Jefferson Smith''', doing {{Eagleland}} proud

A film from 1939, directed by FrankCapra, starring JimmyStewart, Jean Arthur, and ClaudeRains. One of Capra's greatest works.

A senator dies in the middle of his term, and the state Governor has to pick a replacement. The crooked political machine would like one candidate, but this man is already known to take positions unpopular with the populace of that state; there are petitions to pick a radical for the office.

The Governor decides to TakeAThirdOption: He picks someone who is highly idealistic but inexperienced in politics, whom he thinks the political machine can keep under control. This person, this new senator, is Mr. Jefferson Smith, his son's Scout Master.

Mr. Smith gets to meet his idol, the other senator for his state, who did great things for the state many years ago and who was a personal friend of Smith's father. He's controlled by the machine now, but Mr. Smith isn't really aware of the machine yet.

Once in Washington, he also meets his chief of staff/secretary--a very beautiful, intelligent FemmeFatale. She does have a heart of gold, but she's an utter cynic.

Now, there is one problem the state machine has with Mr. Jefferson Smith. Mr. Smith has ''one'' issue he supports--building/improving a Boy Scout camp by a major river in the state. But one of the main goals of this machine is to '''dam''' the river (to produce profit for the machine boss, who owns some of the land), which would wipe out many of the natural attractions Mr. Smith hopes to preserve. So, the senior senator and his secretary have to prevent Mr. Smith from voting against the dam, decoying him away from a session where a crucial preliminary vote on the issue is held by sending him on a date with the senior senator's daughter.

Mr. Smith tries to protest the decision within the Senate, but when he yields the floor to the senior senator of his state, he is framed for ethics violations and it is moved that the Senate should consider expelling him. He almost resigns, but his secretary begs him to fight, asking, what would the Boy Scouts he led before becoming junior senator think of politics if he quit now?

So, he doesn't quit. Instead, he holds a ''very'' long [[HoldingTheFloor filibuster]], never yielding the floor, never stopping, reading the Bible and the Constitution and the rules handbook, all to buy time for his supporters to send signs of his support. His supporters--many of them too young to vote--do try to show their support, but the machine is actively fighting them...

Eventually, BagsOfLetters do flood in, but the machine has successfully swayed public opinion through the media, and the most of the public is against Smith. He declares his intention to keep on fighting in an impassioned speech about how sometimes lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for, then collapses from exhaustion. Overcome by guilt, the senior senator has a VillainousBreakdown. Smith is vindicated.
----
!! Tropes:

* AbrahamLincoln: The Lincoln Memorial is an important part of a few scenes.
* {{Adorkable}}: Mr. Smith himself. Especially when he's around Susan Payne, who he has a crush on at first.
* AllStarCast: Good lord! JimmyStewart, Jean Arthur, ClaudeRains, Edward Arnold, Thomas Mitchell, Harry Carey, Eugene Pallette, Beaulah Bondi, and H.B. Warner.
* AffablyEvil: Taylor
* TheAllAmericanBoy: Mr. Smith is a perfect grown-up example, as well as all the Boy Rangers.
* ArtisticLicenseLaw: The filibuster scene. Between 1919 and 1975, a filibuster could be stopped by a vote of two-thirds majority of all senators present (after 1975, it was changed to three-fifths of all total senators: 60). In the movie, the Senate majority and minority leaders can be seen collaborating with each other against Smith, implying that the entire Senate is against him, but somehow powerless to stop him. The movie also specifically shows that the entire Senate is ignoring Smith when he starts his filibuster.
* BadassNickname: Paine is known as "The Silver Knight"
* BagsOfLetters: Mr. Smith expects his filibuster to sway public opinion in his favor, but he is presented with bags of letters that reveal public opinion has turned against him. The mass of letters almost makes Smith lose hope.
* BastardlySpeech:
** Paine's speech near the end is one of the best.
** Taylor criminalizing Mr. Smith using his media machine is basically this trope on a enormous level
* BloodOnTheDebateFloor: Sort of, at the end, when Sen. Smith is dizzy with exhaustion and dehydration after having talked on the floor of the Senate for 24 hours.
* BrokenPedestal: Senator Paine
* CharacterFilibuster: Literally. Never before has a political filibuster been so dramatic.
* CollapsedMidSpeech: Mr. Smith does this at the climax of the film.
* CorruptCorporateExecutive: Taylor is a newspaper magnate by trade.
* CorruptPolitician: Paine
* CountryMouse: Jeff Smith. Many Frank Capra protagonists are in this mold.
* TheDeterminator: Mr. Smith. "You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked. And I'm going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if the room gets filled with lies like these, and the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place."
* {{Eagleland}}: At first glance a Flavor 1, with the idealistic Jefferson Smith visiting the Lincoln Memorial and saying things like the page quote. However, the movie also shows bosses like Taylor owning senators like Paine and manipulating them for their corrupt ends. This pushes the movie closer to the Mixed type.
* EmbarrassingFirstName: ''Clarissa'' Saunders.
* {{Expy}}: The "Boy Rangers", due to the Boy Scouts of America's fierce defense of the use its copyrighted name.
* {{Fainting}}: Smith collapses of exhaustion during his filibuster
* FallenHero: Paine, who was once a crusading reformer like Smith's father but at some point in the past sold out to the Taylor machine.
* {{Fanservice}}
* FemmeFatale
* TheGovernment
* GovernmentConspiracy
* GovernmentProcedural
* GuileHero: Smith
* HauledBeforeASenateSubcommittee: Mr. Smith, thanks to Taylor's attempt at character assassination. However, when he sees [[spoiler:that Sen. Payne is willing to perjure himself]], he storms out of the room without saying anything.
* HeadsTailsEdge
* HeelFaceTurn: Sen. Paine; see VillainousBreakdown below.
* HeroWithBadPublicity: Smith's approval ratings drop heavily in his home state during the filibuster
* HeroicRROD: One of the most epic examples. In the climax he literally speaks his heart out, over the course of it his voice gets fainter, he grows stubble, and his gets paler than even Black and White movie standards. He never gives up, but his body does when he passes out.
* HoldingTheFloor: Maybe the most iconic example in fiction. Articles about filibuster reform in the United States feature pictures of James Stewart a lot.
* HotAndCold: Saunders. She warms up to Mr. Smith over the course of the story.
* [[INeverSaidItWasPoison I Did Not Say That Mr. Payne Was One Of The Men In That Room]]
** [[SubvertedTrope "I was in that room!"]]
* IncorruptiblePurePureness: Jefferson Smith.
* InterruptedSuicide: Offscreen with Sen. Paine--we hear a gunshot and cut to Paine, who is having a gun wrested from his hands.
* IntrepidReporter: Diz
* JustInTime
* TheMole: The secretary, sort of.
* NiceGuy: Jeff Smith.
* NobleDemon: Sen. Joseph Harrison Paine
* NobodyPoops: Smith's filibuster lasts 26 consecutive hours, during which he cannot sit down or leave the room. There are certain bodily functions that cannot be delayed for 26 hours. In RealLife, Strom Thurmond had to purposefully dehydrate himself for a full day in a sauna before his record-breaking filibuster (24 hours, 18 minutes against the 1957 Civil Rights Act) so that he would not have to go to the bathroom, and, at one point, even forced a page to hold a bucket outside the Senate while he pissed in it... one foot still on the Senate floor.
* ObstructiveBureaucrat: Congress itself is described like this.
* {{Paparazzi}}: The D.C. press. Justified, because they are very cynical about politics.
* ThePlan
* PlatonicLifePartners: Diz and Saunders
* PostVictoryCollapse: happens a little earlier than Jeff would have liked.
* PropagandaMachine: Taylor has a fearsome one. It is easy to forget, in this modern media age, how owning a couple of radio stations and a newspaper or two could at one time allow an individual to control the public discourse in a rural area, at least for a short time.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: The Vice President
* ScoutOut: The "Boy Rangers" after the Boy Scouts of America refused to participate.
* SesquipedalianSmith: Jefferson Smith
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism
* StrawmanNewsMedia: Type 1!
* ThrowingOutTheScript: A Capra staple trope.
* TakeAThirdOption: The Governor's selection of Mr Smith.
* UnwittingPawn: The idea is that Smith will be a placeholder until the Taylor machine can elect one of its own people.
* VillainousBreakdown: Paine, after Jeff collapses. "Expel me! Not that boy! I'm not fit to be a Senator! I'm not fit to live!"
* UsefulNotes/WashingtonDC
* WeNeedADistraction
* WhereTheHellIsSpringfield: The state represented by Senator Jefferson Smith is not named. (Though it's supposed to be Montana.)
* WideEyedIdealist: Dear Wide Eyed Jefferson Smith.
* WouldHurtAChild: Taylor's thugs. They deliberately crash into a car full of Boy Rangers trying to deliver their own newspaper in support of Smith.

----
[[redirect:Film/MrSmithGoesToWashington]]
12th Jan '13 11:19:42 PM Jeduthun
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Added DiffLines:

* HauledBeforeASenateSubcommittee: Mr. Smith, thanks to Taylor's attempt at character assassination. However, when he sees [[spoiler:that Sen. Payne is willing to perjure himself]], he storms out of the room without saying anything.
9th Jan '13 9:30:58 AM Oreochan
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* AdultChild: Smith shows many traits of this
10th Dec '12 2:51:20 PM gallium
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* ArtisticLicenseLaw: The filibuster scene. Between 1919 and 1975, a filibuster could be stopped by a vote of two-thirds majority of all senators present (after 1975, it was changed to three-fifths of all total senators: 60). In the movie, the Senate majority and minority leaders can be seen collaborating with each other against Smith, implying that the entire Senate is against him, but somehow powerless to stop him.

to:

* ArtisticLicenseLaw: The filibuster scene. Between 1919 and 1975, a filibuster could be stopped by a vote of two-thirds majority of all senators present (after 1975, it was changed to three-fifths of all total senators: 60). In the movie, the Senate majority and minority leaders can be seen collaborating with each other against Smith, implying that the entire Senate is against him, but somehow powerless to stop him. The movie also specifically shows that the entire Senate is ignoring Smith when he starts his filibuster.



* GovernmentProcedural



* HoldingTheFloor

to:

* HoldingTheFloorHoldingTheFloor: Maybe the most iconic example in fiction. Articles about filibuster reform in the United States feature pictures of James Stewart a lot.



* InterruptedSuicide: Offscreen with Sen. Paine--we hear a gunshot and cut to Paine, who is having a gun wrested from his hands.



* PropagandaMachine

to:

* PropagandaMachinePropagandaMachine: Taylor has a fearsome one. It is easy to forget, in this modern media age, how owning a couple of radio stations and a newspaper or two could at one time allow an individual to control the public discourse in a rural area, at least for a short time.



* UnwittingPawn

to:

* UnwittingPawnUnwittingPawn: The idea is that Smith will be a placeholder until the Taylor machine can elect one of its own people.
27th Oct '12 7:02:10 PM maxwellsilver
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* Expy: The "Boy Rangers", due to the Boy Scouts of America's fierce defense of the use its copyrighted name.

to:

* Expy: {{Expy}}: The "Boy Rangers", due to the Boy Scouts of America's fierce defense of the use its copyrighted name.
27th Oct '12 7:01:53 PM maxwellsilver
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Added DiffLines:

* Expy: The "Boy Rangers", due to the Boy Scouts of America's fierce defense of the use its copyrighted name.
25th Oct '12 3:36:55 PM BobTanaka
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Added DiffLines:

* AllStarCast: Good lord! JimmyStewart, Jean Arthur, ClaudeRains, Edward Arnold, Thomas Mitchell, Harry Carey, Eugene Pallette, Beaulah Bondi, and H.B. Warner.
25th Oct '12 3:30:42 PM BobTanaka
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** [[SubvertedTrope "I ''was'' in that room!"]]

to:

** [[SubvertedTrope "I ''was'' was in that room!"]]
25th Oct '12 3:30:24 PM BobTanaka
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Added DiffLines:

** [[SubvertedTrope "I ''was'' in that room!"]]
17th Sep '12 4:47:40 AM kraas
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Added DiffLines:

* ArtisticLicenseLaw: The filibuster scene. Between 1919 and 1975, a filibuster could be stopped by a vote of two-thirds majority of all senators present (after 1975, it was changed to three-fifths of all total senators: 60). In the movie, the Senate majority and minority leaders can be seen collaborating with each other against Smith, implying that the entire Senate is against him, but somehow powerless to stop him.
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