19 April 2009

Great Films That Are One Character Degree of Separation from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

The first film from Hollywood's Golden Age that I fell in love with as an adult was Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) which still ranks number two on my all time favorite American films list. For many years after falling in love with it I was constantly discovering members of Mr. Smith's cast in other films. This bespeaks how wonderful a cast director Frank Capra assembled for the film and the frequency with which many actors appeared in films in those days.

I now offer the fruits of a recent game I played to occupy time during a particularly meaningless stretch of class time in one of the courses I'm taking. It's simply this, how many great films could I come up in which Mr. Smith cast members appeared? The rules were only one film per actor and only one actor per film. My criteria for "great film" was that it must be one of my all time favorites. I came up with 17 films, it could have been more if Astird Allwyn had managed to appear in anything else half decent.

Jimmy Stewart, who played the title character was in many other great films including, Vertigo (1958).

Claude Rains was the corrupt but guilt ridden Senator Paine here and the famously slimy chum to Bogie, Captain Renault, in Casablanca (1942).

Jean Arthur was Stewart's love interest and aide, Saunders, she hooked up with Cary Grant in The Talk of the Town (1942).

H.B. Warner was Senator Agnew in Mr. Smith one of zillions of fine movies in which he appeared, another is Sunset Boulevard (1950).

Porter Hall was Senator Monroe and showed up in many other classics including Sullivan's Travels (1941).

William Demarest as Bill Griffith was not for the first time or last a right hand man to a political boss, but he was a cop in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944).

Eugene Pallette was also a sidekick to the head political honcho, he played long suffering dads a lot as in The Lady Eve (1941).

Ruth Donnelly played the governor's wife here and Harriet Bowers Gould in Footlight Parade (1933).

Beulah Bondi was Smith's mom in this film and a preacher's wife in Rain (1932).

Harry Carey was the U.S. Vice President in Mr. Smith and the wealthy Mr. Melville in Red River (1948).

Grant Mitchell was senator MacPherson here, a father numerous times and a friendly caretaker in Grapes of Wrath (1940).

Guy Kibeee was the governor of an unnamed state who appointed Smith to the senate and the daffy love struck lawyer Fanuel H. Peabody (that's Fannie to you) in Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933).

Thomas Mitchell was reporter Diz Moore in Mr. Smith and in the same year was the drunkard Doc Boone in Stagecoach (1939).

Jack Carson was also a reporter, Sweeny Farrell, but was simply Chuck in another movie with Smith in the title, Hitchock’s lone screwball comedy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941).

Erville Alderson was the sadly mistaken handwriting expert in Smith and Chancelor Alexei Bestuchef in The Scarlet Empress (1934).

Edwarrd Arnold was the evil Jim Taylor in this Capra film and the evil D.B. Norton in a later Capra movie, Meet John Doe (1941).

Charles Lane -- seriously folks how could the ubiquitous Mr. Lane NOT be in this film? -- He’s got for what his him meaty role in Mr. Smith as Nosey a scandal sheet news reporter. Among his 18 trillion other roles was the part of a rent collector in Its a Wonderful life (1946).

Do you realize how many more great films I could have added without the one film per character rule? I'll give you a clue, the answer rhymes with cousins and is suggestive of multiples of the number 12.

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