Frank Capra

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Frank Capra 1897-1991

American film director who created some highly popular films.

Born Bisacquino, Sicily, Capra moved with his family to America in 1903, settling in Los Angeles, where he graduated from Throop College of Technology (later CalTech). In 1930 Capra went to work for Mack Sennett and then Columbia where he formed a close association with (writer) Robert Riskin and (cameraman) Joseph MacDonald, although in 1940 Sidney Buchman replaced Riskin as writer.

After the Oscar winning romantic comedy It Happened One Night he produced a steady stream of films intended to be inspirational and humanitarian - the three best known are Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life.

Between 1942 and 1948 (when he produced State of the Union) Capra also directed or co-directed eight war documentaries including Prelude to War (1942), The Nazis Strike (1942), The Battle of Britain (1943), Divide and Conquer (1943), Know Your Enemy (1945), Tunisian Victory (1945) and Two Down and One to Go (1945). His work for the Why We Fight series at this time is widely considered a masterpiece of propaganda, surpassed only by Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will: Capra was faced with the task of convincing an isolationist nation of the need to involve themselves, arguing against segregation, and attempting to ally troops with the Russians, among other things.

Capra's film "It's a Wonderful Life" is often shown on television on Christmas Day, and taken as a sacharine valentine to traditional America. It is much more than that: a look at the darker side of small-town life, the pettiness, incompetence and bullying. It is also an almost frightening portrait of a depressive man (played by Jimmy Stewart) with suicidal wishes.

Capra released an autobiography in 1971 entitled The Name Above the Title. Capra was also the subject of a 1991 biography by Joseph McBride entitled Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success.

Capra filmography.

  • The Strong Man (1926)
  • For the Love of Mike (1927)
  • Long Pants (1927)
  • The Power of the Press (1928)
  • Say It with Sables (1928)
  • So This Is Love (1928)
  • Submarine (1928)
  • The Way of the Strong (1928)
  • That Certain Thing (1928)
  • The Matinee Idol (1928)
  • Flight (1929)
  • The Donovan Affair (1929)
  • The Younger Generation (1929)
  • Rain or Shine (1930)
  • Ladies of Leisure (1930)
  • Dirigible (1931)
  • The Miracle Woman (1931)
  • Platinum Blonde (1931)
  • Forbidden (1932)
  • American Madness (1932)
  • The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1932)
  • Lady for a Day (1933)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
  • Broadway Bill (1934)
  • Opera Hat (1935)
  • Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936)
  • Lost Horizon (1938)
  • You Can't Take It with You (1938)
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  • Meet John Doe (1941)
  • Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
  • It's a Wonderful Life (1947)
  • State of the Union (1948)
  • Riding High (1950)
  • Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  • A Hole in the Head (1959)
  • Pocketful of Miracles (1961).