Frank Capra

Infobox actor
bgcolour = silver
name = Frank Capra

caption = Frank Capra cuts Army film as a Signal Corps Reserve major during World War II.
birthdate = birth date|1897|5|18|df=y
location = Bisacquino, Sicily, Italy
deathdate =death date and age|1991|9|3|1897|5|18|df=y
deathplace = La Quinta, California, U.S.
birthname = Francesco Rosario Capra
othername =
homepage =
academyawards = Best Director 1934 "It Happened One Night" 1936 "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" 1938 "You Can't Take It with You" Best Picture 1934 "It Happened One Night" 1938 "You Can't Take It with You" Documentary Feature 1942 "Prelude to War"
afiawards =
baftaawards =
goldenglobeawards = Best Director - Motion Picture 1947 "It's a Wonderful Life"
awards = AFI Life Achievement Award 1982 Life Achievement Award Golden Lion 1982 Lifetime Achievement
spouse = Helen Howell (1923-1927) (divorced) Lou Capra (1932-1984) (deceased); 4 children

Infobox President
name = Frank Capra

order = 7th President of Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences
term_start = 1935
term_end = 1939
predecessor = Frank Lloyd
successor = Walter Wanger

Frank Russell Capra (May 18, 1897–September 3, 1991) was an Academy Award winning Italian-American film director and a major creative force behind a number of highly popular films of the 1930s and 1940s, including "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

Early life

Born Francesco Rosario Capra in Bisacquino, Sicily, Italy, Capra and his family—his father Salvatore, his mother Rosaria Nicolosi, and his siblings Giuseppa, Giuseppe, and Antonia—immigrated to the United States in 1903.

In California the family met with Benedetto Capra (the oldest sibling) and settled in Los Angeles. Frank Capra attended Manual Arts High School there. In 1918, Frank Capra graduated from Throop Institute (now the California Institute of Technology) with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering.

During World War I, Capra enlisted in the United States Army on October 18, 1918. He taught ballistics and mathematics to artillerymen at Fort Scott and San Francisco. However, while at the Presidio, he became ill with Spanish flu and was medically discharged with rank of second lieutenant on December 13.

He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1920, adopting the name Frank Russell Capra.

Film career

Capra began as a prop man in silent films. [ Capra 1971, pp. 17, 20.] However, he wrote and directed silent film comedies starring Harry Langdon and the "Our Gang" kids. Capra went to work for Mack Sennett in 1924 and then moved to Columbia Pictures, where he formed a close association with screenwriter Robert Riskin (husband of Fay Wray) and cameraman Joseph Walker. However, Sidney Buchman replaced Riskin as writer in 1940.

For the 1934 film "It Happened One Night", Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy were originally offered the roles, but each felt that the script was poor, and Loy described it as one of the worst she had ever read, later noting that the final version bore little resemblance to the script she and Montgomery were offered. [Kotsabilas-Davis and Loy 1987, p. 94.] After Loy, Miriam Hopkins and Margaret Sullavan also each rejected the part. [Wiley and Bona 1987, p. 54.] Constance Bennett wanted to, but only if she could produce it herself. Then Bette Davis wanted the role, [Weems, Erik. [ "It Happened One Night - Frank Capra."] Updated June 22, 2006.] but she was under contract with Warner Brothers and Jack Warner refused to loan her to Columbia Studios. [Chandler 2006, p. 102.] Capra was unable to get any of the actresses he wanted for the part of Ellie Andrews, partly because no self-respecting star would make a film with only two costumes. [ [ moviediva: It HappenedOneNight] ] Harry Cohn suggested Claudette Colbert to play the lead role. Both Capra and Clark Gable enjoyed making the movie; Colbert did not. After the 1934 film "It Happened One Night", Capra directed a steady stream of films for Columbia intended to be inspirational and humanitarian.

The best known are "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", the original "Lost Horizon", "You Can't Take It with You", "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", and "It's a Wonderful Life". His ten-year break from screwball comedy ended with the comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace". Among the actors who owed much of their early success to Capra were Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant and Donna Reed. Capra called Jean Arthur " [his] favorite actress".

Capra's films in the 1930s enjoyed success at the Academy Awards. "It Happened One Night" was the first film to win all five top Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay). In 1936, Capra won his second Best Director Oscar for "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"; in 1938 he won his third Director Oscar in five years for "You Can't Take It with You", which also won Best Picture. In addition to his three directing wins, Capra received directing nominations for three other films ("Lady for a Day", "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", and "It's a Wonderful Life"). On March 5, 1936, Capra was also host of the 8th Academy Awards ceremony.

World War II

Frank Capra was commissioned as a major in the United States Army Signal Corps during World War II. He produced "State of the Union" and directed or co-directed eight documentary propaganda films between 1942 and 1948, including the seven-episode U.S. government-commissioned "Why We Fight" series—consisting of "Prelude to War" (1942), "The Nazis Strike" (1942), "The Battle of Britain" (1943), "Divide and Conquer" (1943), "" (1945), "Tunisian Victory" (1945), and "Two Down and One to Go" (1945)—as well as produced the African-American targeted "The Negro Soldier" (1944). "Why We Fight", is widely considered a masterpiece of propaganda and won an Academy Award. "Prelude to War" won the 1942 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. Capra regarded these films as his most important works. He was decorated Distinguished Service Medal in 1945 as an colonel.


"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) was considered a box office disappointment but it was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Sound Recording and Best Editing. The American Film Institute named it one of the best films ever made, putting it at the top of the list of AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers, a list of what AFI considers to be the most inspirational American movies of all time. The film also appeared in another AFI Top 100 list: it placed at 11th on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies list of the top American films.

Capra's final theatrical film was with Glenn Ford and Bette Davis, named "Pocketful of Miracles" (1961). He planned to do a science fiction film later in the decade but never got around to pre-production. Capra produced several science-related television specials for the Bell Labs, such as "Our Mr. Sun" (1956), "Hemo the Magnificent" (1957), "The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays" (1957), and "" (1958). These educational science documentaries were popular favorites for showing in school science classrooms.

In 1982, American Film Institute honored Frank Capra with television film "The American Film Institute Salute to Frank Capra". Hosted by Jimmy Stewart. In 1986, Capra received National Medal of Arts.

Capra films usually carry a definite message about the basic goodness of human nature and show the value of unselfishness and hard work. His wholesome, feel-good themes have led some to call his "Capra-corn", but those who hold his vision in high regard prefer the term "Capraesque". It may be argued that much of the 'feel-good' type of cinema which for better or for worse has become a genre of its own is largely Frank Capra's legacy.Fact|date=February 2007

Capra in the media

In 1971, Capra published his autobiography, "The Name Above the Title". Uncompromising in its details, it offers a compelling self-portrait. It is, however, not considered to be entirely reliable as regards dates and facts; one commentator asserts that it "appears to have been a lie practically from beginning to end". [Gewen 1992]

Capra was also the subject of a 1991 biography by Joseph McBride entitled "Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success". McBride challenges many of the impressions left by Capra's autobiography.

Death and legacy

Frank Capra died in La Quinta, California of a heart attack in his sleep in 1991 at the age of 94. He was interred in the Coachella Valley Cemetery in Coachella, California.

He left part of his convert|1100|acre|km2|0|sing=on ranch in Fallbrook, California to Caltech. [ The Caltech Y History] ]

His son Frank Capra, Jr. — one of the four children born to Capra's second wife, Lou Capra — was the president of EUE Screen Gems Studios, in Wilmington, North Carolina until his death on December 19, 2007. Frank Capra's grandson is Frank Capra III. His great-grandchildren include Asa Capra, screenwriter Chanel Capra, actor Francis Capra and Ava Capra. []

AFI 100 Years... series

*AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)
**"It's a Wonderful Life"...# 20
**"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"...# 26
**"It Happened One Night"...# 46
*AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers
**"It's a Wonderful Life"...# 1
**"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"...# 5
**"Meet John Doe"...# 49
**"Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"...# 83
*AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs
**"It Happened One Night"...# 8
**"Arsenic and Old Lace"...# 30
**"Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"...# 70
*AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions
**"It's a Wonderful Life"...# 8
**"It Happened One Night"...# 38
*AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains
**50 greatest movie heroes
**"It's a Wonderful Life"...George Bailey ...# 9
**"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"...Jefferson Smith ...# 11
**50 greatest movie villains
**"It's a Wonderful Life"...Mister Potter ...# 6

United States National Film Registry

*"The Strong Man" (1926)
*"It Happened One Night" (1934)
*"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939)
*"Why We Fight" (1942)
*"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)


*"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)
*"Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936)
*"Lost Horizon" (1937)
*"You Can't Take It with You" (1938)
*"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939)
*"Meet John Doe" (1941)
*"Why We Fight" (1942-45)
*"Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944)
*"The Battle of China" (1944)
*"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)
*"State of the Union" (1948)
*"Riding High" (1950)
*"Here Comes the Groom" (1951)
*"A Hole in the Head" (1959)
*"Pocketful of Miracles" (1961)

* "There are no rules in filmmaking, only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness." [Capra 1971]

ee also

*James Stewart
*The Bell Laboratory Science Series




* Capra, Frank. "Frank Capra, The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography". New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971. ISBN 0-30680-771-8.
* Chandler, Charlotte. "The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, A Personal Biography". New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006. ISBN 0-78628-639-3.
* Gewen, Barry. "It Wasn't Such a Wonderful Life." "The New York Times, May 3, 1992." [ It Wasn't Such a Wonderful Life] Retrieved: May 2, 2007.
* Kotsabilas-Davis, James and Loy, Myrna. "Being and Becoming". New York: Primus, Donald I Fine Inc., 1987. ISBN 1-55611-101-0.
* McBride, Joseph. "Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success". New York: Touchstone Books, 1992. ISBN 0-671-79788-3.
* Oderman, Stuart. "Talking To the Piano Player: Silent Film Stars, Writers and Directors Remember". Albany, Georgia: BearManor Media, 2005. ISBN 1-59393-013-5.
* Wiley, Mason and Bona, Damien. "Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards". New York: Ballantine Books, 1987. ISBN 0-345-34453-7.

External links

*tcmdb name|28439
* [ Bibliography]

NAME= Capra, Frank
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Capra, Francesco Rosario
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Academy Award winning Italian-American film director
DATE OF BIRTH= 18 May 1897
PLACE OF BIRTH= Bisacquino, Sicily, Italy
DATE OF DEATH= 3 September 1991
PLACE OF DEATH= La Quinta, California, U.S.

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