Film Reviews


In this paper, I have reviewed three films. They are Mr. Smith goes to Washington by Frank Capra, All the King’s Men by Robert Rossen and Grapes of Wrath by John Ford. All of those movies impressed me with the ideas, actors’ acting and the atmosphere. All the films I listed are about the Great Depression times, showing the problems which appeared in that period in American society.

The Ffilm "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

Mr. Smith goes to Washington is a film by Frank Capra that came out in 1939. The film was made in times of the Great Depression just before the World War 2 and is considered one of the classic movies in the American history. Capra watched every element of production and used a variety of tricks to speed up the story so that it did not seem fragmentary. In his hands, every gesture and movement of each character is filled with meaning and illustrates its creed: “one person, one film”. This inspired masterpiece had eleven Academy Awards nominations, but it got only one Oscar for the best original story. There were also nominations for the best picture, the best actor (Stewart), the best supporting actor (Harry Carey), the best supporting Actor (Claude Rains), director, screenplay, editing, music, the work of artists and sound.

One of the senators died, who lobbied interests of business giant Taylor. The state governor found Jefferson Smith, the leader of the local “Boy Rangers” movement, who took this place. Smith was a brave and eager idealist, ready to serve the country, who could recite by heart the declaration of independence, but he had no idea that senator wanted him to be a political puppet. Trying to do something in his new position, Mr. Smith took the bill on the establishment of the camp for the children from all over the country. He encouraged his secretary with love and determination for the country, and she started helping him. Saunders was valuable as a teacher while Smith slowly began to realize that his altruistic view of the world was very different from the reality. Bill passes the hearings, but the place for the camp was located exactly where the dam should be built, a construction lobbied by people, who gave the place for Smith in the Senate. Smith entered into an unequal struggle with the smart, serious, violent and cynical people, including the beloved and respected friend of his father, who was killed in his youth. Soon, Taylor sets out to destroy the reputation of Jeff, but Clarissa Saunders helped Jeff to fight back against the political machine. He acted that way to save his reputation following the ideals of the US democracy.

This great film was built on the assumption that inaction of good people is enough for evil to triumph. Frank Capra showed the usual naive person, true guardian of democratic ideals. This is one of the most moral movies filled with sincere emotion that never seems boring. Mr. Smith goes to Washington has all the qualities of deep movie. Frank Capra, the master of his craft, raised several important subjects for art and human subjects. It is not even about a "true democracy" as this movie can be considered. The director asked us what a person should do when everybody are against him and his ideals. The answer is simple - it is necessary to believe that your truth is the right one until the end. Jefferson Smith successfully proved it. A simple man, who did not know the vicissitudes of big politics, entered the fray with all the well-functioning machine and won. This reflects the eternal optimism of Capra because that was about love and truth, and the intrigue cannot shake those two absolutes. The film is worth seeing also because of the brilliant play of James Stewart.

The Film "All the King’s Men"

All the King’s Men is the Robert Rossen’s film released in 1949. It is based on the same name novel of Robert Penn Warren. In 1950, it had three Academy Awards for the best film, best actor (Broderick Crawford) and the best supporting actress (Mercedes McCambridge). The same year, the movie received Golden Globe awards for the best film, the best director, the best actor (Broderick Crawford), the best supporting actress (Mercedes McCambridge) and the most promising debut in the female lead (Mercedes McCambridge).

Willie Stark was the honest humble servant in the American heartland. He wanted to improve the lives of ordinary people and that is why disputed against the provision of a contract for construction of schools associated with the owners of the town. There was the accident in school when the stairs fell and a few children died. As a result, Willie became a local hero. The major corruptors from the state after hearing this decided to use Stark. They offered him to be a candidate for Governor. They did not want to make him a Governor; the main aim was to take votes from another candidate. The naive Stark started his campaign. He performed the long speeches, gave facts and figures to show the poor his program. Soon Willie understood what role he had. After that he started giving people the other speeches. People listened enthusiastically to the furious curses about state politicians. Stark's popularity was growing fantastically, and finally he won the election. He became the Governor and did what he had dreamed about all his life: building roads, schools, hospitals, forcing the rich to fork out for the needs of the poor. However, his methods were dirty such as blackmail, threats and intimidation.

The film shows how good can transform in bad when the man gets the power. Willie Stark became the Governor providing the right policy that helped people. In the same time, he did that with a way of threats, blackmail and other illegal deeds. It becomes evident, when the man gets power, his personality and views change in a bad way. Despite the fact that the events took place in the 30s, and the film was shot in the 40's, the film does not need an update or explanation; it is still relevant today. It is not hard to believe that a person could indulge in dirty tricks and stunts because we have experienced political scandals with darker coloring. It is worth remembering that era which is described in this film was innocent in comparison with the modern world. America truly began to feel the pervasive nature of political corruption. Even people with the best intentions and the purest ideals could not resist the system. The film raised the age-old question of the ‘ends that justify the means’, but no one could give a definitive answer to it.

All the King's Men is based in part on the real life exploits of Huey Long, who was governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932. Many aspects of Huey Long's career (including its end) converge to the same aspects of Stark's career. In numerous published interviews, Warren admitted it, but All the King's Men had not been intended as a biography. It is not hard to find men like Willie Stark in the modern world, but this film showed what was bad and what was good.

The Film "Grapes of Wrath"

Grapes of Wrath is the most famous black-and-white epic drama film directed by John Ford. The film was released in 1940. This is a brilliant adaptation of the novel of the famous writer John Steinbeck about the times of depression. Tom Joad returned home after four years of hard work. When he reached the farm in his native Oklahoma, he hoped to see and hug his family, but there was no family. The local priest told Tom that his family was devastated, and the local rich owned the land where he grew up. Driven by the crisis, farmers went to California searching of a better life. The rumors said that in California, it was possible to find a well-paid job. However, there was no happiness for the Tom’s family in the land of oranges and wild palm trees. Promised jobs were occupied long time ago, and employers were dirty, two-faced people, who made a profit out of honest workers. Moving from one village to another, the heroes were constantly experiencing hardship in everything - from food and shelter to the moral degradation, but at the same time, it gained confidence and perceived the strength of family ties.

This movie was considered the first American unsentimental film about ordinary people. In his character, Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) was able to uncover a very important facet of the national character of the Americans, which was the search for the truth. Presenting a vast army of farmers evicted from the whole earth, he was the personification of their search for social justice. The film can be safely called the golden classics of American cinema. Perhaps, Henry Fonda played the best role of his life. For this film, John Ford received his second Academy Award. The film strikes with the great director's work and actors performances. Jane Darwell’s final remark is forever remembered: "We are alive. We are people who always survive. No one can destroy us. No one can stop us. We will always go forward".

Grapes of Wrath is one of the greatest films that I have ever seen. It is very patriotic, and it will teach generations how to be a man. It is hard to forget the scenes and especially the final words of Jane Darwell. The film is very realistic and hard, that truly shows all the desperation faced by the common people of the Midwest, which were deprived of their lands. Nevertheless, it is filled with a huge compassion, and to some extent, it is even inspiring. The film teaches not to forget about mercy, even in the most difficult times. All the good deeds and the help to those who need, eventually return in a much larger size. There are many movies about the survival during the Great American Depression, but John Ford film, set on the novel by John Steinbeck's, Pulitzer Prize-winner, managed as closely as possible to convey the spirit of that time. The director unfolded the story of a generation that dragged out their miserable existence without a choice on the example of a single American family. When watching the film, one can feel the love and affection that Ford had towards the main characters. In the same time, I felt an antipathy to those who stood in their way such as officials and police.

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