Frank Capra


Frank Russell Capra (born Francesco Rosario Capra; May 18, 1897 – September 3, 1991) was an Italian-American film director, producer and writer who became the creative force behind some of the major award-winning films of the 1930s and 1940s. Born in Italy and raised in Los Angeles from the age of five, his rags-to-riches story has led film historians such as Ian Freer to consider him the “American Dream personified.” He became one of America’s most influential directors during the 1930s, winning three Academy Awards for Best Director from six nominations, along with three other Oscar wins from nine nominations in other categories. Among his leading films were It Happened One Night (1934), starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert; Mr, Deeds Goes to Town (1936), with Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur; You Can’t Take It with You (1938), with James Stewart; and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).

Other notable films of the time include Ladies of Leisure (1930), with Barbara Stanwyck; Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), with Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Priscilla Lane, and Jack Carson; It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), with Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Ward Bond, Frank Faylen, and Gloria Grahame; State of the Union (1948), with Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Adolphe Menjou, Van Johnson and Angela Lansbury; A Hole in the Head (1959), with Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Eleanor Parker, Keenan Wynn, Carolyn Jones, Thelma Ritter, Dub Taylor, Ruby Dandridge, Eddie Hodges, and Joi Lansing; and Pocketful of Miracles (1961), with Glenn Ford, Bette Davis, Hope Lange, Arthur O’Connell, Peter Falk, and Ann-Margaret.

It Happened One Night was the first film to win the Big 5 Academy Awards (Picture, Director, Writer, Actor, and Actress), followed by Miloš Forman‘s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), with Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher; and Jonathan Demme‘s The Silence of the Lambs (1990), with Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.

During World War II, Capra served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and produced propaganda films, such as the Why We Fight series. After World War II, Capra’s career declined as his later films, such as It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), performed poorly when they were first released. In ensuing decades, however, It’s a Wonderful Life and other Capra films were revisited favorably by critics. Outside of directing, Capra was active in the film industry, engaging in various political and social activities. He served as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, worked alongside the Writers Guild of America, and was head of the Directors Guild of America.

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

Silent Films

  • Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House (1922) – short
  • The Village Blacksmith (1922) – short
  • The Looking Glass (1922) – short
  • The Barefoot Boy (1922) – short
  • The Strong Man (1926)
  • Long Pants (1927)
  • For the Love of Mike (1927)
  • That Certain Thing (1928)
  • So This Is Love (1928)
  • The Matinee Idol (1928)
  • The Way of the Strong (1928)
  • Say It with Stables (1928)
  • Submarine (1928)
  • The Power of the Press (1928)
  • The Burglar (1928) – short, co-director

Sound Films

  • The Younger Generation (1929)
  • The Donovan Affair (1929)
  • Flight (1929)
  • Ladies of Leisure (1930)
  • Rain or Shine (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) – documentary, uncredited)
  • The Battle of Russia (1943) – documentary, co-director, uncredited
  • Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)**
  • State of the Union (1948)
  • Riding High (1950)
  • Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  • Our Mr. Sun (1956) – TV documentary
  • A Hold in the Head (1959)
  • Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
  • Rendezvous in Space (1963) – documentary short