Hollywood Movie Prop Desk
The climactic scene of the classic 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington features Jefferson Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart, delivering an impassioned filibuster in the Senate Chamber. Because director Frank Capra was not permitted to film in the Chamber, he ordered the construction of a replica Senate Chamber, complete with an entire set of reproduction Chamber desks fabricated by the Angelus Furniture Manufacturing Co. of Los Angeles. Director Otto Preminger brought Capra’s original set out of storage for use in his own 1962 film about the Senate, Advise and Consent, based on Allen Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
These desks occasionally appear for sale, and in 2004 the Senate was presented with an example for its own collection. Although the Angelus Company was careful to duplicate many of the characteristics of the historic Senate Chamber desks, a false writing top, rudimentary cast-iron ventilation grills, and the absence of inkwells and pounce bottles are vital clues that these desks were created as movie props.