Frank Capra

Frank Capra (kăp´rə), 1897–1991, American film director, b. Bisaquino, Sicily. One of the preeminent Hollywood directors of the 1930s and 40s, he produced idealistic populist movies that, sometimes amusingly and sometimes sentimentally but nearly always optimistically, celebrate the virtues of the common American. His family emigrated to the United States in 1903 and settled in Los Angeles. Starting in the movies in the early 1920s, he became a feature film director with Harry Langdon comedies, achieved commercial success with Platinum Blonde (1931), and won his first Academy Award with the "screwball" romantic comedy It Happened One Night (1934).

Capra's naively decent American heroes triumph over the forces of greed, cynicism, corruption, or self-doubt in such films as Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936; Academy Award), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Meet John Doe (1941), and the richly textured classic It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Among his movie-making innovations were accelerated pacing, conversational and sometimes overlapping dialogue, and previews that gauged audience reaction. Capra's many other films include Lost Horizon (1937), You Can't Take It With You (1938; Academy Award), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), State of the Union (1948), A Hole in the Head (1959), and his last, Pocketful of Miracles (1961).

See his autobiography (1971); biography by J. McBride (1992, repr. 2000); C. Wolfe, Frank Capra: A Guide to References and Resources (1987).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Populism and the Capra Legacy
Wes D. Gehring.
Greenwood Press, 1995
Master Space: Film Images of Capra, Lubitsch, Sternberg, and Wyler
Barbara Bowman.
Greenwood Press, 1992
Frank Capra's 1920s Immigrant Trilogy: Immigration, Assimilation, and the American Dream
Cavallero, Jonathan J.
MELUS, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer 2004
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Hollywood Social Problem Film: Madness, Despair, and Politics from the Depression to the Fifties
Peter Roffman; Jim Purdy.
Indiana University Press, 1981
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 13 "Frank Capra's Super-Shysters and Little People"
Though More Than 60 Years Old, Films of Frank Capra Stay Fresh
Arnold, Gary.
Insight on the News, Vol. 14, No. 5, February 9, 1998
Politics and Politicians in American Film
Phillip L. Gianos.
Praeger Publishers, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Capra" begins on pg. 93
You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet: The American Talking Film: History & Memory, 1927-1949
Andrew Sarris.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Frank Capra (1897-1991)") begins on pg. 352
Class, Language, and American Film Comedy
Christopher Beach.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "'The Split-Pea Soup and the Succotash'-- Frank Capra's 1930s Comedies and the Subject of Class"
Britain Can Take It: The British Cinema in the Second World War
Anthony Aldgate; Jeffrey Richards.
Edinburgh University Press, 1994 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 13 "'National Pride and Prejudices': Tunisian Victory"
"Tunisian Victory" and Anglo-American Film Propaganda in World War II
Krome, Frederic.
The Historian, Vol. 58, No. 3, Spring 1996
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
'Our Mr. Sun': Religion and Science in 50s America
Gilbert, James.
History Today, Vol. 45, No. 2, February 1995
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