Note: This post is an assignment for a School Library Media/Materials course.

Capra, F. (Producer & Director). (1939). Mr. Smith goes to Washington [Motion Picture]. USA: Columbia Pictures.

Qualitative Analysis (Text Complexity measure analyzed using SCASS/Achieve the Core):

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is slightly to moderately complex.

Text Structure: There is one predominant story line and it may be difficult to predict for some viewers but most will find the film straightforward. There are no explicit graphics, but this item is a motion picture, so the visual media is integral to the understanding of the text.

Language Features: Language is explicit, literal, straightforward and easy to understand. The dialogue is contemporary, familiar, and conversational language. Primarily simple and compound sentences, with some complex constructions make up most of the dialogue.

Purpose: There are more than one levels of meaning clearly distinguished from each other within the film. The theme is clear but is sometimes conveyed with some subtlety.

Knowledge Demands: The film explores several themes but the experiences portrayed are common to many readers. There are no references or allusions to other texts or cultural elements beyond the American cultural experience.

Films are notorious for editing and constructing themselves in such a way that the film evokes specific feelings and thoughts. In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington the filmmakers have used camera angles, music and editing to evoke these emotional responses.

Curricular Content standards:

AASL 21st Century Standards:

2.4.2 Reflect on systematic process, and assess for completeness of investigation.

2.4.3 Recognize new knowledge and understanding.

2.2.3 Employ a critical stance in drawing conclusions by demonstrating that the pattern of evidence leads to a decision or conclusion.

3.2.1 Demonstrate leadership and confidence by presenting ideas to others in both formal and informal situations.

3.2.2 Show social responsibility by participating actively with others in learning situations and by contributing questions and ideas during group discussions.

3.1.2 Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners.

4.1.1 Read, view, and listen for pleasure and personal growth.

Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.3 Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.5 Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.


This is a favorite film of mine. Despite its having been made in 1939, the film still has many applications to modern day events. This film can be a wonderful supplement to history classes discussing the American political process, historical and contemporary. Students can compare and contrast the process as displayed in the film and how it is presented in the contemporary media.