Jean Arthur – TCM Summer Under The Stars

James Stewart and Jean Arthur in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Courtesy of Columbia.

Jean Arthur is the second classic movie star to take the spotlight for 24 hours during the TCM Summer Under The Stars series.

I’ll have formal reviews running for a few films on Tuesday. However, one that I strongly recommend watching is Frank Capra’s Oscar-winning classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Hey, when you’re up against films like Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, you have to take those Oscars where you can get them. In this case, it was Lewis R. Foster taking home an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story. This was the film’s sole win in its 11 Oscar nominations. In another universe, Jean Arthur would have reunited with Gary Cooper on the film. It was initially going to be a Mr. Deeds sequel but Cooper declined and Capra had to change focus.

Regarding Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the actress stars as a veteran Washington secretary Clarissa Saunders. Anyway, one of the most impressive things I love about the film is the attention to detail with recreating the United States Senate on camera. It’s more than just the Senate but offices, monuments, etc. When you’re looking at the chamber, you’re looking at a complete reproduction on the Columbia lot. It’s honestly amazing how authentic it is.

One of the things that the film does so well is capture how our politicians can be bought through corruption. It’s not right and it’s one of the worst things about the American political system. Perhaps this explains why so many Washington politicians didn’t like the film in 1939. This is why the Oscar-winning film stands the test of time. Jefferson Smith is the type of politician that they don’t make anymore. Because of this, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington remains one of the best political films ever made.

Two other Frank Capra-directed films are airing during this Jean Arthur marathon: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and You Can’t Take It With You. I’ll have formal reviews of both films forthcoming. My review of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town will run in the morning. However, my viewing of You Can’t Take It With You will have to wait until the morning. Don’t worry, my review will be up in time for the TCM broadcast in the early evening/late afternoon depending on your time zone. One quick note: Jean Arthur almost didn’t end up in Mr. Deeds. Originally, Carole Lombard was set to star in the film. However, she decided to pull out three days before in order to star in My Man Godfrey. It was a good choice on Lombard’s part because she landed an Oscar nomination!

There’s a Cary Grant/Jean Arthur classic, Only Angels Have Wings. I first saw the film in 2010 and while I’d like to rewatch before the broadcast, it’s not sitting on my DVR nor is it available on one of my streaming subscriptions. That said, the Howard Hawks film–also released in 1939–is one of his best films. If I’m able to watch and get a review up on Tuesday, I will.

A few years later, Grant and Arthur reteamed in The Talk of the Town under the direction of George Stevens. The 1942 film also starred Ronald Colman. Unfortunately for Jean Arthur, both male co-stars earned twice or more what she made on the film. It’s not so much their fault in as much as it was Columbia’s tyrant president Harry Cohn. Scheduled to start production in mid-January, Stevens sent everyone home upon learning of Carole Lombard’s tragic death in a plane crash. Arthur and Stevens would later work together again on The More the Merrier (1943) and Shane (1953). The former will air overnight on TCM. Unfortunately, Shane is not airing during Summer Under The Stars.

The full Jean Arthur schedule is below. As a reminder, all times listed are Eastern Time.

6:00 AM: Seven Chances (1925)
7:00 AM: The Silver Horde (1930)
8:30 AM: Public Hero No. 1 (1935)
10:15 AM: Whirlpool (1934)
11:45 AM: The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936)
1:15 PM: The Talk of the Town (1942)
3:30 PM: Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
5:45 PM: You Can’t Take It with You (1938)
8:00 PM: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
10:15 PM: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
12:30 AM: The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)
2:30 AM: The More the Merrier (1943)
4:30 AM: Danger Lights (1931)

TCM celebrates Jean Arthur during Summer Under The Stars on August 2, 2022.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.