Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

2h 9m / Not Rated / Drama

If you want a look at how perspectives on art change with their cultural context, watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and know that on its release, it was called anti-American and unpatriotic. The film, a worshipful and sentimental love song to American civics, was literally heckled by US senators. Mr. Smith gets compared to It’s a Wonderful Life a lot — it’s a Frank Capra movie starring Jimmy Stewart, who plays an ethical exemplar — but it actually has a lot more in common with another classic movie that we always show in December: Miracle on 34th Street. Both movies at their heart are about the value of moral innocence, about belief in something that almost no adults believe in anymore. Here, that thing is the egalitarian power of the American political system and the eventual triumph of good. And Frank Capra — perhaps film’s most pre-eminent proponent of the “American dream” — was an immigrant from Sicily, born Francesco Rosario Capra. There’s no fanatic like a convert.

Immediately after the screening, retired USF film professor Harriet Deer will lead a short discussion and audience Q&A. The session is included with film admission.

The Summer Classics Movie Series is presented by Bank of America. Additional support is provided by J.J. Taylor Distributing, Florida, Inc., New Belgium Brewing, and WEDU-PBS.