Watch It

On DVD: Now | On Blu-ray: TBD

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Details


Frank Capra's classic comedy-drama established James Stewart as a lead actor in one of his finest (and most archetypal) roles. The film opens as a succession of reporters shout into telephones announcing the death of Senator Samuel Foley. Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), the state's senior senator, puts in a call to Governor Hubert "Happy" Hopper (Guy Kibbee) reporting the news. Hopper then calls powerful media magnate Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold), who controls the state -- along with the lawmakers. Taylor orders Hopper to appoint an interim senator to fill out Foley's term; Taylor has proposed a pork barrel bill to finance an unneeded dam at Willet Creek, so he warns Hopper he wants a senator who "can't ask any questions or talk out of turn." After having a number of his appointees rejected, at the suggestion of his children Hopper nominates local hero Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), leader of the state's Boy Rangers group. Smith is an innocent, wide-eyed idealist who quotes Jefferson and Lincoln and idolizes Paine, who had known his crusading editor father. In Washington, after a humiliating introduction to the press corps, Smith threatens to resign, but Paine encourages him to stay and work on a bill for a national boy's camp. With the help of his cynical secretary Clarissa Sanders (Jean Arthur), Smith prepares to introduce his boy's camp bill to the Senate. But when he proposes to build the camp on the Willets Creek site, Taylor and Paine force him to drop the measure. Smith discovers Taylor and Paine want the Willets Creek site for graft and he attempts to expose them, but Paine deflects Smith's charges by accusing Smith of stealing money from the boy rangers. Defeated, Smith is ready to depart Washington, but Saunders, whose patriotic zeal has been renewed by Smith, exhorts him to stay and fight. Smith returns to the Senate chamber and, while Taylor musters the media forces in his state to destroy him, Smith engages in a climactic filibuster to speak his piece: "I've got a few things I want to say to this body. I tried to say them once before and I got stopped colder than a mackerel. Well, I'd like to get them said this time, sir. And as a matter of fact, I'm not gonna leave this body until I do get them said." ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

  • Release date:October 17, 1939


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Claude Rains Best Supporting Actor 1939 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Frank Capra Best Director 1939 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Harry Carey Best Supporting Actor 1939 Nominee
New York Film Critics Circle James Stewart Best Actor 1939 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences James Stewart Best Actor 1939 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Sidney Buchman Best Screenplay 1939 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Dimitri Tiomkin Best Score 1939 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Lewis R. Foster Best Original Story 1939 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Gene Havlick Best Editing 1939 Nominee


James Stewart
as Jefferson Smith
Jean Arthur
as Clarissa Saunders
Claude Rains
as Sen. Joseph Paine
Edward Arnold
as Jim Taylor
Thomas Mitchell
as Diz Moore
Guy Kibbee
as Gov. Hubert Hopper
Eugene Pallette
as Chick McGann
Beulah Bondi
as Ma Smith
H.B. Warner
as Senator Fuller
Harry Carey
as President of the Senate
Astrid Allwyn
as Susan Paine
Ruth Donnelly
as Emma Hopper
Grant Mitchell
as Sen. MacPherson
Porter Hall
as Sen. Monroe
Pierre Watkin
as Sen. Barnes, minority leader
Charles Lane
as Nosey
William Demarest
as Bill Griffith
Dick Elliott
as Carl Cook
Johnny Russell
as Larry Simms
Harry Watson
as Hopper Boy
Byron Foulger
as Hopper's Secretary
Donald Kerr
as Reporter
Gene Morgan
as Reporter
Arthur Loft
as Chief clerk
Dulce Daye
as Reporter
Louis Jean Heydt
as Soapbox speaker
Ed Randolph
as Senate reporter
Charles Moore
as Porters
Frederick Burton
as Sen. Dearhorn
Margaret Mann
as Nun
Eddie Fetherstone
as Senate reporter
Jack Gardner
as Reporter
Matt McHugh
as Reporter
Frances Gifford
Eddy Chandler
as Reporter
Mabel Forrest
as Senate reporter
Stanley Andrews
as Sen. Hodges
Fred "Snowflake" Toones
as Porter
Dave Willock
as Senate guard
Al Bridge
as Sen. Dwight
Lloyd Ingraham
as Committeeman
Anne Cornwall
as Senate reporter
Frank Jaquet
as Sen. Byron
Harry Hayden
as Speaker
Evelyn Knapp
as Reporter
Alec Craig
as Speaker
Joseph King
as Summers
Adrian Booth
Frank Puglia
as Handwriting expert
Carl Stockdale
as Sen. Burdette
John Ince
as Senator Fernwick
Olaf Hytten
as Butler
Ann Doran
as Paine's Secretary
Milt Kibbee
as Senate reporter
Jack Richardson
as Senator Manchester
Dub Taylor
as Reporter
Erville Alderson
as Handwriting expert
Larry Simms
as One of the Hopper Boys
Helen Jerome Eddy
as Paine's secretary
Edmund Cobb
as Sen. Gower
Ferris Taylor
as Sen. Carlisle
Walter Soderling
as Sen. Pickett
Hank Mann
as Photographer
Robert Middlemass
as Speaker
Wyndham Standing
as Senator Ashman
Lloyd Whitlock
as Schultz
Dora Clement
as Mrs. McGann
George Chandler
as Reporter
Vernon Dent
as Senate reporter
Harlan Briggs
James Millican
as Senate reporter
Craig Stevens
Jack Carson
as Sweeney
Mary Gordon
Frank O'Connor
as Senator Alfred
Paul Stanton
as Flood
Gino Corrado
as Barber
Philo McCullough
as Senator Albert
Sam Ash
as Senator Lancaster
Maurice Cass
as Handwriting expert
Frank Austin
as Inventor
Robert Emmett Keane
as Editor
Russell Simpson
as Allen
Vera Lewis
as Mrs. Edwards
Dorothy Comingore
as Girl
John Russell
as Hopper Boy
Eddie Kane
as Reporter
Laura Treadwell
as Mrs. Taylor
Maurice Costello
as Diggs
Wade Boteler
as Family man
George Cooper
as Waiter
William Newell
as Reporter


Frank Capra
Frank Capra
Lewis R. Foster
Screen Story
Sidney Buchman
Joseph Walker
Dimitri Tiomkin
Composer (Music Score)
Morris W. Stoloff
Musical Direction/Supervision
Gene Havlick
Robert Kalloch
Costume Designer
Edward Bernds
Sound/Sound Designer