A Tribute To Frank Capra
Very few directors have had words coined from their names to describe their style. “Hitchcockian” comes to mind. And, of course, “Capra-esque.”
Frank Capra’s was a style and an approach to filmmaking that no others have consistently been able to emulate. Many of his stories, in other hands, would have been slapstick or maudlin or both. Attempts have certainly been made, about which the less said, the better.
Born in Italy on May 18, 1897, he came to America at the age of six, in steerage, the son of a fruit picker. After graduating from college with an engineering degree and serving in the military, he began his Hollywood career as a gag writer for Hal Roach and Mack Sennett, then became a writer and director for comedian Harry Langdon. Eventually he landed at Columbia Studios, and there began the work that would eventually land him among the greatest directors of all time.
Films such as The Younger Generation (1929), The Miracle Woman (1931), The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1932), and Lady for a Day (1933) put him on top. It Happened One Night (1934) became the first film to win all five major Oscars. He won two more Best Director Oscars, for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and You Can’t Take It With You (1938), which also won Best Picture. His success was in part due to a colaboration with screenwriter Robert Riskin, who helped develop the characteristic stories of the little man who fights the establishment.
After directing Lost Horizon (1937) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), he left Columbia and began working for Warner Brothers. Meet John Doe (1941) andArsenic and Old Lace (released in 1944) were the result. He spent the WWII years making documentaries in the lauded Why We Fight series. After the War, he, George Stevens and William Wyler formed Liberty Pictures, which producedIt’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and State of the Union (1948), among others. Both were flops at the box office, but today are considered among his best efforts. Unfortunately, they were the last of his great films. Though A Hole in the Head(1959) and A Pocketful of Miracles (1961) were enjoyable films, they were also evidence that his greatest days were behind him. He died in 1991, an elder statesman of Hollywood.
I’ll end the brief biography there, although it seems as if too much can never be said about Capra and his work. In 1997, when I first started my movies site, I put together this article with links to sites devoted to Capra and his films. Later I added tributes and reviews of his films, plus links to places where you could purchase them on VHS or DVD. The latest update is an expansion of the article to four pages and the addition of books and posters. Enjoy!
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Frank Capra Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Books and Posters