Frank Capra, Sid Buchman and “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”

As the new year begins and a Trump presidency comes closer to becoming a reality, I couldn’t help but think of the climactic scene from one of my favorite Frank Capra movies “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. Frank Capra was one of the great filmmakers of the 1930s and early 1940s.

Frank Capra was a conservative Republican. But during the 1930s he was an open minded man who collaborated with more liberal screenwriters to produce his many classic movies. Robert Riskin, the screenwriter of It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, You Can’t Take It With You and Meet John Due, was for instance a New Deal liberal. Sid Buchman, the screenwriter of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, was an American communist. So Capra’s films were a mixture of both progressive and conservative values.

Capra and his left wing screenwriters were deeply concerned about how to uphold our American democratic values and community in the face of a great economic depression, a fascist threat in Europe and demagoguery from the likes of Huey Long and Father Coughlin. When Sid Buchman wrote Mr Smith Goes To Washington, he wanted to depict the wide gap between America’s high ideals and the way our country falls far short of those ideals. Buchman crafted speeches for Mr. Smith arguing for activists to fight for causes even if those causes seem hopeless. Both Buchman and Capra wanted Americans to fight for our country to live up to its high values.

In Buchman’s day, the causes he fought for were for organizing workers, ending the lynching of African Americans, and creating a more just economic system. Though some of today’s causes are different, I think Frank Capra and Sid Buchman’s film still has great resonance today.

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About angelolopez

I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life. Since I was a child I’ve drawn on any scrap of paper I could get a hold of. When I went to San Jose State University, I became more exposed to the works of the great fine artists and illustrators. My college paintings were heavily influenced by the humorous illustrations of Peter De Seve, an illustrator for the New Yorker magazine. I also fell under the spell of the great muralists of the 1930s, especially Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera. I graduated with a degree in Illustration. Angelo Lopez has had illustrations published in Tikkun Magazine, the Palo Alto Daily News and Z Magazine. From April 2008 to May 2011, Angelo's cartoons were regularly published in the Tri-City Voice, a weekly newspaper that covers the Fremont, Hayward, Milpitas, Neward, Sunol and Union City areas in California. He does a political webcomic starring his cartoon character Jasper for the progressive blogsite Everyday Citizen. Since December 2011, Angelo does a regular weekly political cartoon for the Philippines Today, a Filipino American newspaper based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since March 2013, he has also contributed cartoons to the Manila Mail, a Filipino American newspaper based in Washington D.C. Angelo is a member of the Sunnyvale Art Club, and the Northern California chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. During the 1990s, he was a member of the part-timer workers SEIU unit in the city of Sunnyvale. Angelo won the 2013, 2015 and 2016 Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial cartooning for newspapers with a circulation under 100,000. He has also won the 2016 RFK Book and Journalism Award for Editorial Cartoons. Angelo won first prize for the Best of the West contest in 2016 and third prize in 2017. Angelo is married to Lisa Reeber. They enjoy taking walks, watching movies and hanging out with their nieces.
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