When it was first released, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was attacked by the Washington press, and politicians in the U. S. Congress, as anti-American and pro-Communist for its portrayal of corruption in the American government. Today however, it has been deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Jimmy Stewart was catapulted into stardom after this role, and rightfully so. His portrayl as the young naive freshman senator who wants to do right by his constituants and becames a crusader for what is right is one of the best performances in American film history. One of the most famous scenes in all of cinema is Stewart’s passionate filibuster on the floor of the Senate, in which he implores to all the other senators to remember what democracy is all about, and what the founding fathers of the United States wanted out of their government. This scene is greatly remembered, and the lingering feeling is that there is an overpoweringly strong message for America and its institutions. Stewart’s Best Actor Oscar for The Philadelphia Story the following year is sometimes seen as belated recognition for his portrayal of Jefferson Smith.
Stewart was not the only great actor in this film, it also starred, Jean Arthur, Claude Raines and Oscar winner for his role in Stagecoach, Thomas Mitchell who also starred in another Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s Wonderful Life.