Re: Forgotten films that are predecessors of well-remembered films

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.past-films
Date: Saturday, May 09, 1998 6:59 PM

Adding to a dormant thread:

In "Washington Merry-Go-Round" (1932), Lee Tracy is a new congressman who, upon arriving in Washington, discovers that his honesty is at odds with the ethics of his new colleagues. In "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), James Stewart is a new senator -- and you probably know that character's integrity and what happens to him.

The comparisons don't end there. I submit:

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND: A member of Congress commits suicide at beginning; another member is deliberately murdered at the end.

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON: A member of Congress accidentally dies at the beginning; another member attempts suicide at the end.


WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND: When the new, conscientious member of Congress wants to commune with his feelings of disappointment over the corruption that permeates his colleagues, he sits at the Lincoln Memorial.



WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND: When the girl comes to console the honest congressman on the night after he has suffered bitter professional disappointment, she comes to him at the glass cases displaying the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON: Same, except that they go to the Lincoln Memorial.


WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND: The villain runs a political machine, using it to buy members of Congress; he's named Norton (played by Alan Dinehart).

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON: Edward Arnold plays the central villain, who, like his counterpart in "Merry-Go-Round," controls public opinion and chooses political appointees and how they vote; Arnold would play a villain named "Norton" in Capra's successor film, "Meet John Doe."


WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND: Lead character is a new member of Congress, and doesn't look upon it as the position he'll have for life.



WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND: Based on a Maxwell Anderson story, adapted to a screenplay by Jo Swirling.

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON: Story credited to Lewis R. Foster, adapted for the screen by Sidney Buchman. (Some sources mention the screen story being adapted from a published short story titled "The Man From Montana," which appeared in a magazine not too long before the decision to make "Mr. Smith." If that is true, it would probably be true that a direct lineage from "Washington Merry-Go-Round" to "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" never existed.)


WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND: State which the hero serves is not named, but rather is referred to as "his state."

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON: Same. (This omission occurs even though the source story was "The Man From Montana." Also, Smith mentions that his homing pigeons have a 2,000-mile journey back home and that flying over Kentucky is part of that journey.)


WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND: The new congressman's journey to Washington by train ends with a dark-mood scene at the Washington train station.



WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND: Constance Cummings as the cynical young woman who has long been in Washington, questions not the corruption, and doesn't care for the new member of congress, whom she is thrown together with strictly by accident. She contemplates accepting the marriage proposal of a man she doesn't love, seemingly to snuff out whatever glimmer of romance remains within her soul.

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON: Jean Arthur is the leading lady this time -- otherwise it's the same.


WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND: An honorable man (not the lead character nor his same-state colleague in the legislature), responsible to his constituents, refuses to buckle down to the political machine and is put into a position in which his death is a foregone conclusion.

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON: It is reported that Smith's father had been an honorable man, so much so that he would not betray the readers of his newspaper; his refusal to buckle down to a political machine lead to his death by means of a weapon in his back.

David Hayes


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