How much do you know about the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"?

J. Reinoehl

Image: Columbia Pictures Corporation

About This Quiz

Frank Capra continued to inject his idealism into the political comedy-drama "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Although the film was disliked by those in government, it did well in theaters in the U. S. and abroad. How well do you remember "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"? Find out by taking this quiz.

Why did the governor need to appoint a new senator?

"Senator Samuel Foley is dead. Yeah, died here at St. Vincent's. At the bedside, was political sidekick, Senator Joseph Paine."

What was the governor's nickname?

Capra was a firm believer in no small acting parts. He would even tell actors whose sole job was to be part of the crowd walking on the street where they were going—the store, the post office, home after a hard day at work, etc.

Finish the quote: "Dad always used to say the only causes worth fighting for were _______________."

"Dad always used to say the only causes worth fighting for were the lost causes."

Which actor played Jefferson Smith?

James Stewart (May 20, 1908—July 2, 1997) never served in politics in real life, but he did serve in the military. He was drafted shortly before Pearl Harbor and was used for promotional films as well as commanding an air squadron. His efforts earned him several medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Croix de Guerre.

Which candidate did the governor's children want him to appoint?

"That's easy, Dad, Jefferson Smith. …He's the only senator to have."

What happened when the governor flipped the coin?

In general, it is theoretically possible for a nickel to land on its edge one in 6,000 times. The coin Happy flipped was about the size of a quarter but had a thicker edge, like a nickel. It landed on its side with the help of a newspaper.

What was Jefferson Smith doing when the governor called on him to tell him he would be the next senator?

Initially, Capra wanted to do a musical about Frédéric Chopin, but the studio felt it would be too expensive to produce. The boys' band was playing Semper Fidelis by John Philip Sousa when the Governor entered.

How did Jefferson Smith know the other senator, Joseph Paine?

"He probably doesn't remember me, but he knew my father very well, Clayton Smith. They went to school together.

How long was Mr. Smith missing after he first arrived in Washington, D. C.?

Mr. Smith was missing for five hours. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was Capra's last film with Columbia Pictures. The relationship built between Capra and Stewart during the movie encouraged Capra to give Stewart the part in "It's a Wonderful Life" — the first film in which Stewart was cast after his service in World War II.

What did the Boy Rangers get Jefferson Smith as a going away present?

"We are happy to take this opportunity to present, uh, this, uh this small token of our affection and esteem… It's a briefcase, Jeff."

What time did the Senate convene each day?

The Senate met at noon. When Senator Smith presented his credentials to the President of the Senate, they would have been submitted to the Committee on Privileges and Elections (which is now under the Committee on Rules and Administration). The committee would then have made a decision as to whether or not Smith was fit to serve — not later, as it is in the movie.

What did Mr. Smith want to make his pet project?

"For the last couple years, I've thought it would be a wonderful idea to have a boys' camp in our state… You see, if we could get the poor kids off the streets, out of the cities for a few months in the summer, and let them learn something about nature and American ideals..."

What did Senator Paine say makes Ms. Saunders stay on and not quit?

Jean Arthur, who played Clarissa Saunders in the movie, was an extremely shy actress who shunned publicity. She began her career during the silent film era and ended it with her first color movie, "Shane."

Who was supposed to keep Mr. Smith occupied during the presentation of the bill?

"Susan Paine… I'm elected to snatch Mr. Jefferson Smith from the Senate tomorrow… You sympathize — don't you, Saunders?"

With what did they frame Senator Smith?

Although this does not make sense logically — one would think he could sell it to the government either way and still make a profit — the contract was dependent upon whether Smith's bill went through.

What two words did Mr. Smith have in his bill that caused Paine distress?

"Diz, Don Quixote with this bill will get to his feet in a minute and speak two important words: Willet Creek. When that happens, the Silver Knight will fall off his tightrope, and Puss will jump out of his boots.

Who told Paine what to do for 20 years?

It was assumed they modeled Taylor after Tom Pendergast and his political machine in Kansas City, Missouri. Pendergast was Harry Truman's friend, and some credited Truman's election to him. However, there were a number of political machines in cities throughout the U. S. (such as New York's Tammany Hall and Chicago's Cook County Democratic Party), especially in the early 1900s.

What pet did Jefferson bring to Washington?

"I better see about my pigeons… Just a second. I'd better make sure."

What did Paine do to prevent Senator Smith from speaking out against the dam?

A fight broke out between two senators from the same state on February 22, 1902, and one accused the other of misconduct (and was subsequently punched by the other). Senate Rule 19 (Section 2) was amended shortly afterward and prevented one senator from attacking another senator's character during a debate. Because of that, Senator Paine could have been silenced as Elizabeth Warren recently had been.

How did Jefferson Smith's dad die?

"He and his little four-paged paper against that mining syndicate… Shot in the back. I was there."

What did Senator Smith do when he was called to testify before the committee?

All impeachments — whether for presidents, senators, representatives, or judges — must begin in the House of Representatives and are usually addressed by a committee there. At this point, Smith would need to be impeached. Impeachments then move to the Senate. But if a senator is being impeached, he or she could be expelled from the Senate at that time and ordered to appear before the investigating committee. The Sergeant-at-Arms has the power to arrest senators who fail to appear when summoned, or who leave the meeting, as Senator Smith did.

Mr. Smith's desk on the Senate floor once belonged to whom?

"This was Daniel Webster's desk. Did you know that?"

Where did Smith go immediately after the committee hearing?

While at the Lincoln Memorial, the camera focuses on the words from the Gettysburg Address, "…And that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Who did Smith meet at the memorial who helped him decide to fight?

"You sure had the right idea about me, Saunders. You told me to go back home and keep filling those kids full of hooey."

When Smith was talking, what did Paine get the senators to do?

If all the senators had left, it would have been easier for them to invoke cloture. If two-thirds of the voting senators agree, cloture can stop a filibuster. This rule (number 22) was added to the Senate in 1917 under President Wilson's direction.

Once the floor was empty, what was the next rule he invoked?

"I call the chair's attention to, uh, Rule 5 of the Standing Rules of the Senate, Section — Section 3. If it shall be found that a quorum is not present -- a majority of the senators present —and that looks like me—uh, uh, may direct the sergeant-at-arms to request and if necessary compel the attendance of the absent Senators."

Why didn't the people in Smith's home state immediately rally behind him?

The studio system in place at the time had movie studios offering long-term contracts to actors and others involved in the film-making process. It was a rigorous system turning out many films each year, which then had to be bought en masse by theaters—17% of which were also owned by the studios. After the Supreme Court ruling (in the United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.), studios lost much of their power, resulting in fewer movies produced each year but more independent films and foreign films being shown in American theaters.

What evidence did the committee hear that Smith said he could not defend against?

"Mr. President? …I have no defense against forged papers."

How does Saunders confess her love to Smith?

Senator Alben Barkley disliked the movie because he felt it portrayed senators as idiots. But the film was a huge success, even in Washington, D. C. Barkley had recently been accused of using federal employees to campaign for him, something that became illegal under the Hatch Act (1939). He later he became vice-president under Harry Truman.

What did Smith have against the Discrepancy Bill?

"I wish to ask my junior colleague -- this piece he intends to speak, does it concern Section 40 of that bill, the dam on Willet Creek? …Every aspect of this matter, the gentleman's attack on that section, everything was dealt with in committee hearings."

What was the name of the paper owned by Jefferson Smith?

Despite the negative reception by senators and congressmen, the film was careful not only to never to mention which state Senators Paine and Smith represented, but also not to mention Republicans or Democrats. As a diplomat, Joseph Kennedy didn't want foreigners to see the film because he felt they would take a cynical view of American politics and it's corruption. Instead, the international audience saw it as a model of how democracy worked -- in a positive way.

What happened when the boys distributed the papers for Senator Smith?

"Children hurt all over the city. Tell Jeff to stop!"

How long did Smith talk?

The longest filibuster by a single person lasted 24 hours and 18 minutes and was done by James Strom Thurmond to protest the Civil Rights Act. Many times filibusters last longer—even 60 days—because a group of Senators will trade off talking, with each one yielding to the other.

What happened to Senator Smith at the very end of his filibuster that made him stop talking?

"He's OK. He just fainted."

What did Senator Paine do while Smith was removed from the floor of the Senate?

The movie ended abruptly after Senator Paine attempted to shoot himself and confessed to everyone, but it originally ended with a parade in Smith's honor. When test audiences were not pleased with the ending, Capra cut it. A part of it can only be seen in trailers.

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