If you haven’t heard the term filabuster recently you haven’t been listening to the news. So we have a suggestion.
Why not take another look at director Frank Capra’s 1939 classic, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,
There you will witness how a 24-hour filibuster is used by Jimmy Stewart’s character — a naive, idealist appointed by accident to take the seat of a deceased U.S. Senator — to save the day and himself.
Stewart learns the hard way that politics and all manner of nasty stuff are often joined at the hip. So, it’s interesting see how the parliamentary maneuver being debated today was used then as a deus ex machina.
Along the way there are multiple pleasures: a talent stuffed supporting cast including Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, Harry Carey, Guy Kibbee, Eugene Pallette and Beulah Bondi, among others. There’s even a cameo by H.V, Kaltenborn, the multi-lingual news commentator for CBS and NBC in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties, who intoned: The movie was the most significant picture ever to come out of Hollywood.
No wonder it won five Oscars and 16 nominations.
Stewart was nominated for his work in three other, It’s A Wonderful Life; Harvey and Anatomy of a Murder?
And then there is…one of Frank Capra’s brightest stars (the director’s favorite actress, he said), Jean Arthur, who retired from the silver screen on a high note. There she is (above) shooting the breeze with James Stewart and Capra.
The former Glady Green from upstate New York made her screen debut deep in the silent movie era, 1923, in director John Ford’s Cameo Kirby. In fact, the silents concealed perhaps Arthur’s most engaging quality — her appealingly mousy voice.
She had a distinguished career. Besides Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, we especially admire Arthur’s performance in Shane, director George Stevens’ 1953 western about a group of homesteaders besieged by an especially nasty group of land barons.
Into town comes a reluctant gunfighter (Alan Ladd as the title character) who befriends a gentle homesteader (Van Heflin, seen with Ladd below), the loving and protective father of a young son (Brandon DeWilde) and faithful husband to Jean Arthur (standing next to Heflin).
Shane is justifiably a classic, capable of being seen again and again. Arthur is excellent in it. Say this for her, she exited big screen Hollywood with full flags flying.
Arthur next turned to television, but not productively. In 1966 she starred in her own series — The Jean Arthur Show — in which she plays a sophisticated, widowed lawyer. The show lasted a mere 11 weeks.
Arthur died of heart failure in 1991. She was (depending on the differing sources) 91.