[[caption-width-right:350: When someone asks you to write a letter to your Senator, do it. It works. They get really agitated.]]

->''"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 Creator/FrankCapra, with an AllStarCast that included [[Creator/JimmyStewart James Stewart]], Creator/JeanArthur, Creator/ClaudeRains, Edward Arnold, and Creator/ThomasMitchell. One of Capra's greatest works, maybe the best movie Stewart ever made.

A senator dies in the middle of his term, and the state Governor has to pick a replacement. The crooked political machine controlled by Taylor (Arnold) would like one candidate, but this man is already known to take positions unpopular with the populace of that state. The reformers in the state are agitating for a radical to get the seat, but the crooked political machine won't stand for that.

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, leader of the [[ScoutOut Boy Rangers]].

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

Once in Washington, he also meets his chief of staff/secretary--the very beautiful, intelligent Saunders. 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 Ranger 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.

However, despite the best efforts of Taylor and Paine, Smith finds out about the dam. Taylor and Paine try to buy Smith off, but not only does he refuse a payoff, he vows to expose their crooked deal. Backed into a corner, the Taylor machine turns on Smith--with a vengeance.

James Stewart was already a man on the rise in Hollywood after his turn in the previous year's ''Theatre/YouCantTakeItWithYou'', but this move made him one of the leading stars of his day.

Fun fact: Jean Arthur had an imbalanced profile. She believed that she was much prettier from her left side than her right, and a lot of Hollywood people agreed. Watch her scenes in this movie and note how she's almost always shot from the left.

!! Tropes:

* {{Adorkable}}: Mr. Smith himself. Especially when he's around Susan Paine, who he has a crush on at first.
* AffablyEvil:
** Senator Paine may be corrupt, but he isn't cruel.
** Taylor too can be very generous to his employees. Cross him, however, and he'll throw you under a bus. Fight, and smear your name with a massive media empire.
* AffectionateParody: In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', Creator/MelGibson attempts to do a remake of the film, which is revised to conclude with Mr. Smith doing an action-movie style CurbStompBattle wiping out the entire Senate.
* TheAllAmericanBoy: Mr. Smith is a perfect grown-up example, as well as all the Boy Rangers.
* AllThereInTheScript: H.B. Warner and Pierre Watkin's characters are, respectively, credited as Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader. In the script they also have names, respectively, Sen. Martin Agnew and Sen. John Barnes. Their party affiliations are presumably opposite, but it is never stated which is a Democrat and which a Republican.
* ArchEnemy:
* ArmorPiercingQuestion: When Smith angrily confronts some cynical {{paparazzi}}, this exchange takes the wind out of his sails:
-->'''Reporter:''' What do you know about laws or making laws or what the people need?\\
'''Smith:''' I don't pretend to know.\\
'''Diz:''' Then what are you doing in the Senate?
* ArtisticLicenseLaw:
** The filibuster scene. The film makes it perfectly clear that no one in the Senate supports Smith--all of them walk out and he has to issue a quorum call to bring them back. 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).
** Expulsion of a United States Senator has not happened [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_senators_expelled_or_censured since the Civil War]], mainly because senators faced with an expulsion threat have often chosen to resign. Like anything else in American politics it's a laborious process, and it certainly would not be as lightning-quick as in the movie, especially with a senator as determined to fight as Smith is.
* AsYouKnow: Early in the movie Taylor and Paine have a talk explaining things that both of them know, about the Willet Creek Dam graft scheme.
* 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.
* BanOnPolitics: Despite being a film ''about'' politics, it studiously avoids any potentially polarizing details such as party affiliations, hot-button issues, or even what state the senators are from. The words "Republican" or "Democrat" are never so much as alluded to; the most we get is a glimpse of "the majority leaders" and "the minority leaders." (As for {{applicability}}... let's [[RuleOfCautiousEditingJudgment not go there.]])
* 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.
* BigBad: Senator Joseph Paine.
* BigBadFriend: Paine is this to Smith, hoping to spare him from the crooked realities of the Taylor machine.
* 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.
* BreakTheCutie: The InherentInTheSystem entrenched corruption, along with a personal betrayal from Senator Paine, gets very close to Smith, but a smile from the President of the Senate inspires him to go on until he faints. So the trope would be Subverted in this case.
* BrokenPedestal: Smith is deeply shocked when he finds out that Paine, a man he had admired, an old friend of his father, is in cahoots with Taylor.
* BuffySpeak: When Diz asks Saunders where a particular drink is, she says, "It's in the thing... behind the thing."
* CharacterActionTitle
* 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 is conspiring with Taylor to get the Willet Creek dam approved in order to line the pockets of Taylor and his cronies.
* CountryMouse: Jeff Smith. Many Frank Capra protagonists are in this mold.
* DarkestHour: By the end of the movie, Jeff has been framed for corruption, betrayed by his former idol, the Senate is on the verge of expelling him, his newspaper has been shut down Taylor's thugs, he's barely conscious and dehydrated, and political opinion has largely been turned against him.
* DeadpanSnarker: Saunders.
--> "I don't mean to be complaining, Senator, but in all civilized countries, there's an institution called dinner."
* DefrostingIceQueen: Saunders.
* TheDeterminator:
--> '''Jefferson 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.
* DorkHorseCandidate: While he was appointed rather than elected, Jeff was the original Dork Horse Candidate.
* DragonInChief: Jim Taylor's political influence is what keeps Senator Joseph Paine in power.
* DrivenToSuicide: Paine tries to do this after Smith collapses.
* {{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. So embarassing, it doesn't even get listed in the credits.
* {{Expy}}: The "Boy Rangers", due to the Boy Scouts of America's fierce defense of the use its protected name.
* {{Fainting}}: Smith collapses of exhaustion after 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.
* FemmeFatale: Susan Paine uses her attractiveness and feminine wiles to keep Jeff's eye off the ball.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: After administering the oath of office, the Vice President says to Smith, "Senator, you can talk all you want to now." Laughter ensues.
* FrameUp: After Smith starts investigating the Willet Creek dam and then refuses to play ball with Taylor, Taylor and his flunkies then frame Smith as the man behind the graft scheme, complete with fake documents, forged signatures, and perjured testimony.
* GladIThoughtOfIt: The Governor takes credit for appointing Jeff, which was suggested by his own children.
* GoodIsNotDumb: Paine says "This boy's honest, not stupid."
* GoshDangItToHeck: "Horrrrseradish." Doubles as either a LastSecondWordSwap (for "whore") or an UnusualEuphemism (for "horses**t").
* TheGovernment
* GovernmentConspiracy: Sen. Paine is conspiring with Taylor to get a bill passed to build a dam on land Taylor owns. Taylor will make a mint when the feds buy the land.
* GovernmentProcedural
* GuileHero: Smith...thanks mainly to Saunders' working as the ManBehindTheMan.
* HauledBeforeASenateSubcommittee: Mr. Smith, thanks to Taylor's attempt at character assassination. However, when he sees that Sen. Paine is willing to perjure himself, he storms out of the room without saying anything.
* HeadsTailsEdge: The governor is being pressured to pick a party stooge by Taylor, while reform groups are pushing for a crusading outsider. He flips a coin, which lands on its edge, propped up by a newspaper open to a story about Boy Ranger leader Jefferson Smith.
* HeelFaceTurn: Sen. Paine; see VillainousBreakdown below. Paine, ridden with guilt and shame both over selling out to Taylor decades ago and framing Smith now, and horrified when the young man he liked so much collapses on the Senate floor, admits to the whole chamber that everything Smith said was true.
* HeroicBSOD: After the FrameUp, Jeff goes back to the Lincoln Memorial, and breaks down in tears.
* HeroicRROD: One of the most epic examples. In the climax he speaks his heart out, over the course of it his voice gets fainter, he grows stubble, and his face gets paler than even Black and White movie standards. He never gives up, but his body does when he passes out.
* HeroWithBadPublicity: Smith's approval ratings drop heavily in his home state during the filibuster, thanks to Taylor's machinations in mobilizing his PropagandaMachine and using force to break up pro-Smith protests.
* HoldingTheFloor: Maybe the most iconic example in fiction, as Jeff Smith stands on his feet and talks for nearly 24 hours. 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.
* IDidWhatIHadToDo: How Paine justifies his corruption to Smith, saying that it gave him a chance to do more good for the country.
* IncorruptiblePurePureness: Jefferson Smith, who rejects an offer from Taylor for whatever kind of payoff he'd like.
* INeverSaidItWasPoison: Averted. When Smith tells the Senate about being offered bribes by Taylor, he tries to cover for Paine by saying he never said Paine was one of the senators in the room with him. Paine replies, "I ''was'' in that room!"
* InterruptedSuicide: Offscreen with Sen. Paine--we hear a gunshot and cut to Paine, who is having a gun wrested from his hands.
* IntrepidReporter: Diz, who, much like Saunders, starts off quite cynical but is won over by Smith.
* InVinoVeritas: Saunders spills the truth about the Willet Creek scam to Smith after she's had too much to drink, although she apparently doesn't regret it once she sobers up.
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold:
** Martin Monroe. He looks down on Jeff, after reading about his shameless behavior at Mount Vernon, but comes to admire him after witnessing his hours-long filibuster.
** Saunders herself. A truly cynical character who also looks down at Jeff, but she becomes enamored with his sunny idealism, and gives him the means to help him out.
** Diz, one of the {{Paparazzi}} who is a real jerk to Jeff when he first arrives in Washington-- helping publish derogatory stories about him and giving a TheReasonYouSuckSpeech to his face-- but when he sees Smith's fight against political corruption, he gets on Smith's side and tries to swing the papers to support him too.
* TheLastDJ:
** Once Jeff gets wise, Taylor offers him a chance at being Senator for the rest of his life, as well as other favors, if he plays ball. Jeff refuses, at which point Taylor throws him under a bus.
** Smith's father was also this, using his newspaper to fight against a criminal syndicate. It ended with him getting a bullet in the back.
* {{Manchild}}: Jeff is accused of being this several times.
* MaybeEverAfter: Saunders and Jeff, although given how much she obviously adores him one might presume that TheyDo.
* MeaningfulName: Jefferson Smith is named after a [[UsefulNotes/ThomasJefferson founding father]], Paine is morally conflicted, and Taylor shapes politics to his own designs. The latter gets {{lampshaded}}:
-->'''Saunders''': Public opinion made to order.
-->'''Diz''': Yeah, [[PunnyName Taylor]]-made.
* TheMole: Saunders, sort of, when she conspires to get Smith out of the Capitol on the day the deficiency bill is being read out.
* NewscasterCameo: H.V. Kaltenborn, a renowned CBS radio commentator from the era, appears to cover Smith's filibuster
* NiceGuy: Jeff Smith.
* NiceJobFixingItVillain: To encourage Smith, who's dejected after his run-in with the reporters, Paine suggests he should introduce a bill to fund one of his dream projects. Unbeknownst to Paine, this project happens to be a boy's camp in Willet Creek, which leads directly to Smith blowing the lid off Paine and Taylor's graft scheme.
* NobleDemon: Sen. Joseph Harrison Paine, who obviously feels guilty about selling out years ago, and feels even more guilty when Jeff Smith arrives and reminds him of times past.
* NobodyPoops: Smith's filibuster lasts 24 consecutive hours, during which he cannot sit down or leave the room. There are certain bodily functions that cannot be delayed for 24 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.
* NoPartyGiven: In RealLife FDR and the Democrats dominated the government at this time, but in the movie no parties are mentioned.
* NotEvenBotheringWithTheAccent: Look, Claude Rains was fantastic in this movie (and he was basically unrecognizable under the hair and makeup), but really, did he even try to sound American?
* ObstructiveBureaucrat: Congress itself is described like this.
* {{Paparazzi}}: The D.C. press. Justified, because they are very cynical about politics.
* PaperTiger: The press corps call Jefferson Smith a "Christmas tiger" to his face, telling him that he was only appointed to fill a seat in the Senate and vote the way Senator Payne wants him to, which chafes the idealistic young senator. A Christmas tiger is a Japanese bobblehead toy, a ''hariko no tora''. It's usually made of papier-mache. They were called that likely because they were popular in the U.S. as Christmas presents or decorations.
* ThePlan: With the Senate moving to expel him, Jeff Smith will hold the floor and sway popular opinion against Paine and Taylor's machine.
* PlatonicLifePartners: Diz and Saunders, although Diz apparently wishes they could be more.
* PostVictoryCollapse: happens a little earlier than Jeff would have liked.
* PropagandaMachine: Taylor has a fearsome one. It is easy to forget, in the 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 little while.
* QuoteMine: When Smith first arrives in DC, the {{Paparazzi}} take advantage of his naiveté and goad him into making quotes and poses that they print out of context to make him look like a ridiculous rube. [[BerserkButton He is extremely upset by this]].
* RailroadPlot: Smith wants to turn a tract of land into a [[WritingAroundTrademarks not-Boy Scout]] camp. The same land is bought by a corrupt businessman planning on grafting it to the government to build a hydroelectric dam proposed by his paid-off Senator.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: The Vice President, who is presiding over the Senate and gradually grows more sympathetic to Smith.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: When Smith confronts [[{{paparazzi}} the reporters]], they lay one on him by mercilessly explaining that his "honorary appointment" really makes him little more than a ceremonial seat filler who's just there to vote at his party's bidding.
--> '''Diz:''' "You're not a Senator. You're an honorary stooge. You ought to be shown up."
* RedBaron: Paine is known as "The Silver Knight"
* ScoutOut: The "Boy Rangers" after the Boy Scouts of America refused to participate.
* SesquipedalianSmith: Jefferson Smith
* SingleWomanSeeksGoodMan: The cynical Saunders falls for the earnest, naive but ultimately forthright and honorable Jefferson Smith.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism: Ultimately mostly idealistic, although Smith has to lose a lot of his naiveté along the way. Or, to put it another way, idealistic about American values and cynical about American politicians.
* SpiritualSuccessor: To ''Film/MrDeedsGoesToTown'', another Frank Capra movie in which a rube from the sticks gets taken advantage of by urban sophisticates, until he rises to the occasion. Also, both films feature Jean Arthur as the cynical girl who exploits the hero before falling for him. This wasn't a coincidence--the original idea was for this to be a sequel to ''Mr. Deeds Goes To Town''. After the filmmakers couldn't get Creator/GaryCooper, they revised the story and changed the main character's name.
* StrawmanNewsMedia: Type 1!
* TakeAThirdOption: The Governor's selection of Mr Smith, rather than one of Taylor's stooges or a popular insurgent.
* ThatLiarLies: When Taylor tempts Smith to become part of his syndicate, he mentions that he's been telling Senator Paine what to do for 20 years. Smith's blunt response: ''"You're a liar."'' [[spoiler: Unfortunately, Paine confesses that Taylor was telling the truth in that instance.]]
* ThrowingOutTheScript: A Capra staple trope.
* TokenGoodTeammate: Jefferson Smith is the nicest, greatest guy in the world, and everyone around him sucks. But by being around him, they start to get better. Ms. Saunders the secretary, the Corrupt Senator from Smith's home state, they all see the light.
* 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 and his [[DrivenToSuicide attempted suicide]] is averted.
--> Expel me! Not that boy! I'm not fit to be a Senator! I'm not fit to live!
* WeNeedADistraction: Susan Paine lures Smith out on a date so he misses a crucial vote on the dam.
* WhereTheHellIsSpringfield: The state represented by Senators Smith and Paine is not named. It's definitely somewhere in the western half of the country, and its capital is named Jackson City, which suggests that it might be intended to be Missouri (after all, it would be confusing for the capital to ''actually'' be "Jefferson City"...)
* WholePlotReference: Supposedly the film was based on an unpublished short story called "The Gentleman From Montana". However, a UsefulNotes/PulitzerPrize-winning play called ''Theatre/BothYourHouses'' (1933) has very similar plot points. In the stage play, a neophyte congressman from out west comes to Washington. A gaggle of corrupt politicans are drafting a graft-laden appropriations bill for the construction of a dam in the neophyte congressman's district. The neophyte congressman is a paragon of IncorruptiblePurePureness and as such resolves to fight the bill, with the help of his hypercompetent GirlFriday secretary. Columbia Pictures wound up buying the rights to ''Both Your Houses'' to stave off a lawsuit.
* WideEyedIdealist: Dear Wide Eyed Jefferson Smith.
* WingdingEyes: Mentioned by Saunders. "Look, when I came here, my eyes were big blue question marks. Now they're big green dollar marks."
* WorldOfCardboardSpeech: By the end of the movie, Smith is barely standing, public opinion has been turned against him in his own state, his newspaper has been shut down by Taylor's goons, and he's about to face expulsion. But even then, he stands his ground.
* WouldHurtAChild: Taylor's thugs. They deliberately crash into a car full of Boy Rangers trying to deliver their own newspaper in support of Smith.