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Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”

In Frank Capra’s 1939 people’s fable “Mr. Smith goes to Washington “Jefferson Smith, a young, idealistic, and naive hero from a Midwestern state is thrust into public notoriety through a chance course of events. His journey will compel him to contemplate the veracity of the political foundation which supports American democracy and confront the corruption which seeks to erode it.Smith, leader of the Boy Rangers, an organization closely based on the Boy Scouts of America, becomes a state hero after “single-handedly” putting out a forest fire. Like a fabled hero, his statewide popularity burgeons, particularly amongst his state’s youth. When an unexpected political death necessitates the imminent selection of a successor for the position of Senator, Jefferson Smith becomes the unlikely choice. A greenhorn politician, Jeff Smith isn’t chosen for his political achievements, idealism or unwavering morality; he’s chosen because he’s a political neophyte. The governor and Smith’s new colleague, Sen. Joseph Paine, both unscrupulously controlled by Jim Taylor, a corrupt industrialist who runs the state’s news papers and commerce, believe Smith will be easily manipulated and a nonentity in their tainted plans.Of central interest to the “Taylor machine” is the Willet Dam Project, a bill which masquerades as a means by which to promote local agricultural interests but in reality only seeks to generate ill…

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