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. Since my time in college, my goal has been to be a successful children’s book illustrator. I’ve illustrated 3 books: Two Moms the Zark and Me by Johnny Valentine in 1993; Night Travelers by Sue Hill in 1994; and Cherubic Children’s New Classic Story Book Volume 2 for Cherubic Press in 1998. I’ve painted murals for Lester Shields Elementary School in San Jose, the Berryessa branch of the San Jose Public Library, and Grace Community Church in Los Altos. I’ve had a few illustrations published in South Bay Accent Magazine and I will have an illustration published in the January/February issue of Tikkun magazine.
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