Frank Capra

Director, Producer, Screenwriter
During the Great Depression, director Frank Capra became America's preeminent filmmaker, leavening despair with his irrepressible optimism of the Everyman triumphing over seemingly insurmountable odds. A true ... Read more »
Born: 05/18/1897 in Italy

Filmography

Director (32)

A Pocketful of Miracles 1961 (Movie)

(Director)

A Hole in the Head 1958 (Movie)

(Director)

State of the Union 1948 (Movie)

(Director)

It's a Wonderful Life 1946 (Movie)

(Director)

Arsenic and Old Lace 1944 (Movie)

(Director)

Tunisian Victory 1942 (Movie)

(Director)

Why We Fight 1941 (Movie)

(("Prelude to War" "The Nazis Strike" "Divide and Conquer" "The Battle of China")) (Director)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939 (Movie)

(Director)

You Can't Take It With You 1938 (Movie)

(Director)

Lost Horizon 1936 (Movie)

(Director)

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town 1935 (Movie)

(Director)

Broadway Bill 1934 (Movie)

(Director)

It Happened One Night 1934 (Movie)

(Director)

The Bitter Tea of General Yen 1931 (Movie)

(Director)

The Miracle Woman 1930 (Movie)

(Director)

The Matinee Idol 1927 (Movie)

(Director)

The Strong Man 1925 (Movie)

(Director)

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp 1925 (Movie)

(Director)

American Madness (Movie)

(Director)

Dirigible (Movie)

(Director)

For the Love of Mike (Movie)

(Director)

Here Comes the Groom (Movie)

(Director)

Ladies of Leisure (Movie)

(Director)

Lady for a Day (Movie)

(Director)

Long Pants (Movie)

(Director)

Meet John Doe (Movie)

(Director)

Platinum Blonde (Movie)

(Director)

Rain or Shine (Movie)

(Director)

Riding High (Movie)

(Director)

So This Is Love? (Movie)

(Director)

The Battle of Britain (Movie)

(Director)

The Younger Generation (Movie)

(Director)
Producer (17)

A Pocketful of Miracles 1961 (Movie)

(Producer)

A Hole in the Head 1958 (Movie)

(Producer)

State of the Union 1948 (Movie)

(Producer)

It's a Wonderful Life 1946 (Movie)

(Producer)

Why We Fight 1941 (Movie)

(Producer)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939 (Movie)

(Producer)

You Can't Take It With You 1938 (Movie)

(Producer)

Lost Horizon 1936 (Movie)

(Producer)

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town 1935 (Movie)

(Producer)

Broadway Bill 1934 (Movie)

(Producer)

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp 1925 (Movie)

(Associate Producer)

Here Comes the Groom (Movie)

(Producer)

Lady for a Day (Movie)

(Producer)

Meet John Doe (Movie)

(Producer)

Riding High (Movie)

(Producer)

The Battle of Britain (Movie)

(Producer)

The Negro Soldier (Movie)

(Producer)
Writer (6)

Escape From It's a Wonderful Life 1996 (Movie)

from film("It's a Wonderful Life") (Story By)

It's a Wonderful Life 1946 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp 1925 (Movie)

(From Story)

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp 1925 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

His First Flame (Movie)

(Screenwriter)

It Happened One Christmas (TV Show)

Story By
Actor (5)

Christmas at the Movies 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Arriva Frank Capra 1986 (Movie)

(Actor)

George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey 1985 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)
Other (2)

The Big Picture 1989 (Movie)

film extract("It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)) (Other)

Android 1982 (Movie)

film extract("It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)) (Other)

Biography

During the Great Depression, director Frank Capra became America's preeminent filmmaker, leavening despair with his irrepressible optimism of the Everyman triumphing over seemingly insurmountable odds. A true rags-to-riches story himself, Capra rose above his working-class immigrant background to become a comedy writer for vaudeville star Harry Langdon, before turning to directing during the silent era. In 1931, he began his lifelong collaboration with writer Robert Riskin on socially-conscious films like "American Madness" (1932) and "Lady for a Day" (1933), which led to Oscar glory with the classic screwball comedy "It Happened One Night" (1934), the first movie to ever sweep the five major Academy Award categories. Capra then entered a fruitful period with "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936), which he followed with the classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), starring James Stewart, who came to exemplify the director's prototypical idealist. During World War II, Capra made several acclaimed wartime propaganda movies, including "Prelude to War" (1942), which won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Upon returning to Hollywood, he reunited with Stewart on "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), a heartwarming tale that failed at the box office, but later became a perennial holiday classic. The film proved to be Capra's last great achievement, as the director made several underwhelming films over the next two decades before officially retiring and moving out of Hollywood. With a career that celebrated patriotism, idealism and small-town American values, Capra's strength as a filmmaker marked him as a true giant of Hollywood's Golden Age.

Relationships

Salvatore Capra

Father
born in 1852 died in 1919 married Ignazia Catanese in 1878 died six months later married second wife (Capra's mother) on August 8, 1879

Rosaria Capra

Mother
married Salvatore Capra on August 8, 1879

Lucille Capra

Daughter
born on September 16, 1937

Frank Capra

Son
born c. 1933 received associate producer credit for John Sturges' "Marooned" (1969), a project his father had abandoned due to studio interference

John Capra

Son
born on April 12, 1935 died on August 23, 1938 after what was to be a routine tonsillectomy

Thomas Capra

Son
born on February 12, 1941 executive producer of NBC's "Today" Show, beginning in 1990

Antonino Capra

Brother
born c. 1891

Benedetto Capra

Brother
born c. 1885 immigrated to USA in 1900

Antonia Capra

Sister
younger born c. 1900

Guiseppa Capra

Sister
born c. 1889

Ignazia Capra

Sister
older married lived in Sicily

Luigia Capra

Sister
older moved to USA with her husband c. 1906

Frank Capra

Grandson

Helen Howell

Wife
married in 1924 divorced in 1928

Lucille Reyburn

Wife
married engineer Francis Clarke Reyburn in 1928 widowed c. 1929 married Capra in 1932 had four children together born on April 23, 1903 died on July 1, 1984 claimed to be a descendent of Horatio, Lord Nelson and Sir Thomas More

Barbara Stanwyck Actor

Companion
acted in five of Capra's films, beginning with "Ladies of Leisure" (1930) and ending with "Meet John Doe" (1941) had relationship in the early 1930s while she was still married to Frank Fay Capra wanted to marry her but she refused him

EDUCATION

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena , California 1918
school then called the Throop Polytechnic Institute; worked his way through college running the student laundry, waiting tables and wiping engines at the Pasadena power plant

Manual Arts High School

Los Angeles , California

Milestones

1967

Left Hollywood with his wife to settle in La Quinta, California

1964

Moved back onto the Columbia lot to begin pre-production on "Marooned"; blaming then-studio chief Mike Frankovich for forcing him to submit to what he considered unreasonable script approvals and budgets, left this pet film project and officially retired;

1964

Shot last film, "Rendezvous in Space", a short made for the Martin-Marietta Corporation

1961

Directed last feature "A Pocketful of Miracles", a remake of "Lady for a Day"

1952

Retired to his ranch; worked with CalTech on Defense Department project studying psychological warfare; went to India as US State Department emissary to a film festival that the USA feared would be controlled by Communists; had security clearance delays d

1951

Reteamed with Crosby for "Here Comes the Groom"; 11th and last collaboration with Riskin

1950

Directed "Riding High", a remake of his earlier "Broadway Bill" (1934), starring Bing Crosby

1946

Received last Academy Award nomination as Best Director for "It's a Wonderful Life", starring Stewart; Swerling contributed additional scenes

1944

Formed Liberty Films with production head Samuel Briskin, William Wyler and George Stevens which made only one film, "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946); Liberty Films sold to Paramount in 1948

1939

Earned Oscar nomination as Best Director for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", with Stewart in the title role; last film for Columbia

1939

Formed Frank Capra Productions with Riskin

1938

Earned third Best Director Oscar for film version of George S Kaufman and Moss Hart's stage hit, "You Can't Take It with You"; first of three films with actor James Stewart

1936

Weighed in with the first of his social comedies, "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", winning second Best Director Academy Award

1934

First blockbuster hit, "It Happened One Night"; became first fim to sweep the top five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay (Riskin), Best Actor (Clark Gable) and Best Actress (Colbert)

1933

Earned first Academy Award nomination for Best Director for "Lady for a Day", adapted by Riskin from a Damon Runyan story

1932

Fifth and last collaboration for 14 years with Swerling, "Forbidden"

1931

First collaboration with screenwriter Robert Riskin, "Platinum Blonde"

1930

First collaboration with screenwriter Jo Swerling, "Ladies of Leisure"

1929

First real talkie, "The Younger Generation"; "Submarine" had sound effects and snatches of dialogue

1928

Joined Harry Cohn's Columbia Pictures as a director; contract called for relatively paltry sum of $1000 a picture but gave Capra complete control of his projects, the first being "That Certain Thing"; helmed eight more features that year with "Submarine"

1927

Co-scripted (with Arthur Ripley) Edwards' "His First Flame", starring Langdon

1927

Went to NYC where he directed Claudette Colbert in her film debut, "For the Love of Mike"

1927

Last film with Langdon, "Long Pants"

1926

Co-directed (uncredited) and co-wrote Harry Edwards' "Tramp Tramp Tramp", starring Langdon

1926

Solo feature directing debut, "The Strong Man", starring Langdon

1923

Worked as prop man, film editor and gagman for Bob Eddy

1922

Short film directing debut, "The Ballad of Fultah Fisher's Boarding House/Fultah Fisher's Boarding House"; made in San Francisco for Shakespearean actor Walter Montague's new studio

1922

Became a book salesman, selling Elbert Hubbard's "Little Journeys" door-to-door

1918

Enlisted in US Army as a private after college graduation; taught ballistics and mathematics to artillerymen at Fort Scott, San Francisco; demobilized with rank of second lieutentant

1903

Spent sixth birthday in steerage on the "Germania" en route from Italy to USA; moved with family to California; sold newspapers and played banjo in Los Angeles honky-tonks to pay for education

Commissioned as a major in the US Army Signal Corps; produced all, and directed some, of the films in the "Why We Fight" and "Know Your Ally/Know Your Enemy" documentary series; discharged after WWII with rank of colonel

Apprenticed at Walter Bell's small film lab where he printed, dried and spliced amateur films and dailies for Hollywood comedy director Bob Eddy

Briefly Returned to work for Sennett

Suffered a series of minor strokes and was under 24-hour nursing care in the late 1980s

Produced, directed and wrote four educational science documentaries for Bell Telephone: "Our Mr. Sun", "Hemo The Magnificent", "Strange Case of Cosmic Rays" and "Unchained Goddess"

Co-wrote--but did not direct--numerous shorts and two features; joined Hal Roach studios as a gagman of "Our Gang" comedies; hired as gag writer by Mack Sennett for Harry Langdon comedies

Hustled a living as a poker player and sold wildcat mining stocks

Bonus Trivia

.

Credited as Frank R. Capra on early films

.

Received Distinguished Service Medal from the US Army Forces in 1945

.

Awarded France's Legion of Merit Honor and the Order of the British Empire

.

In 1952, Capra was named US delegate of the International Film Festival in Bombay

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