Today is the 125th birthday of the man who directed unarguably some of the classic of classic films from the golden age of Hollywood: Frank Capra. With a Capra film, you are guaranteed to be entertained and most likely learn a lesson or be reminded of humanity in some form. We have watched It’s a Wonderful Life every year on Christmas for as long as I can remember, it is part of a lot of family’s tradition. My other two very favorite Capra films are Arsenic and Old Lace and It Happened One Night. They star top-notch actors turning in top-notch performances. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Frank Capra
BIRTH DATE: May 18, 1897
DEATH DATE: September 3, 1991
EDUCATION: California Institute of Technology
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bisacquino, Sicily, Italy
PLACE OF DEATH: La Quinta, California
ORIGINALLY: Francesco Rosario Capra
ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES PRESIDENT: (1935-39)
AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: 1982
OSCAR: Best Director 1935 for It Happened One Night
OSCAR: Best Director 1937 for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
OSCAR: Best Director 1939 for You Can’t Take It With You
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME: 6614 Hollywood Blvd.
NATIONAL MEDAL OF ARTS: 1986
BEST KNOWNF FOR: Frank Capra is a celebrated Italian-American director known for films like It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Frank Russell Capra was born Francesco Rosario Capra on May 18, 1897, in Bisacquino, Sicily, Italy. Capra moved to the United States with his family and six siblings in 1903. The family settled in an Italian community in Los Angeles, California. Capra worked his way through high school and college at the California Institute of Technology, where he studied chemical engineering.
Capra enlisted in the United States Army during World War I. His father died shortly thereafter. After contracting the Spanish flu, Capra returned home to L.A. and attained his American citizenship under the name Frank Russell Capra. He spent the next few years without direction or regular employment, before finding his way into the film industry. Capra, who had no directing experience, talked his way into directing several comedies put out by San Francisco studios. He got in on the ground floor of Columbia Pictures, helping to establish the studio and move it out of the silent film era.
The 1930s saw Capra’s first national success. He became one of the country’s most influential directors with films such as It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Many of Capra’s films told rags-to-riches stories, often with a moral message and a patriotic bent. He continued his streak of hit films in the ’40s, directing movies like Arsenic and Old Lace and It’s a Wonderful Life. Capra also directed a series of informational films entitled Why We Fight for enlisted men during World War II.
Capra’s career declined after WWII, as public tastes and the mechanics of the film industry changed. He retired from Hollywood filmmaking in 1952. Returning to the subject of science, he directed and produced educational films under the auspices of his alma mater, Caltech. Capra briefly returned to Hollywood in the late ’50s, directing his final three movies between 1959 and 1964. He died in La Quinta, California, on September 3, 1991.
Despite falling out of fashion during the director’s lifetime, the films of Frank Capra have been deeply influential over the past several decades. Many are considered classics and are frequently screened in theaters and on television.
Capra was nominated for six Academy Awards and won three. His 1939 film, It Happened One Night, was the first to win all five of the highest Academy Award honors—best actor, best actress, best director, best screenplay and best picture.
Frank Capra married twice and had four children. One of his sons, Frank Capra Jr., and grandson Frank Capra III have both made their careers in the film industry.
FILMOGRAPHY AS DIRECTOR
Pocketful of Miracles (19-Dec-1961)
A Hole in the Head (15-Jul-1959)
Here Comes the Groom (20-Sep-1951)
Riding High (12-Apr-1950)
State of the Union (30-Apr-1948)
It’s a Wonderful Life (20-Dec-1946)
Arsenic and Old Lace (23-Sep-1944)
Tunisian Victory (16-Mar-1944)
Meet John Doe (3-May-1941)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (17-Oct-1939)
You Can’t Take It with You (23-Aug-1938)
Lost Horizon (2-Mar-1937)
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (12-Apr-1936)
Broadway Bill (21-Nov-1934)
It Happened One Night (22-Feb-1934)
Lady for a Day (7-Sep-1933)
The Bitter Tea of General Yen (3-Jan-1933)
American Madness (4-Aug-1932)
Platinum Blonde (31-Oct-1931)
The Miracle Woman (20-Jul-1931)
Rain or Shine (7-Aug-1930)
Ladies of Leisure (5-Apr-1930)
The Younger Generation (4-Mar-1929)
The Matinee Idol (14-Mar-1928)
For the Love of Mike (31-Jul-1927)
Long Pants (26-Mar-1927)
The Strong Man (19-Sep-1926)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey (25-Sep-1984) as Himself
The World IS a better place for his presence, and it is far poorer since he left. The movies like he directed and produced are not being made or seen any more. We are much poorer for the loss of that sort of fare.