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Overview for Frank Capra
Frank Capra

Frank Capra


TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (12)

Also Known As: Died: September 3, 1991
Born: May 18, 1897 Cause of Death: natural causes
Birth Place: Italy Profession: Director ...


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
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
Hustled a living as a poker player and sold wildcat mining stocks
Became a book salesman, selling Elbert Hubbard's "Little Journeys" door-to-door
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
Apprenticed at Walter Bell's small film lab where he printed, dried and spliced amateur films and dailies for Hollywood comedy director Bob Eddy
Worked as prop man, film editor and gagman for Bob Eddy
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
Co-directed (uncredited) and co-wrote Harry Edwards' "Tramp Tramp Tramp", starring Langdon
Solo feature directing debut, "The Strong Man", starring Langdon
Co-scripted (with Arthur Ripley) Edwards' "His First Flame", starring Langdon
Last film with Langdon, "Long Pants"
Went to NYC where he directed Claudette Colbert in her film debut, "For the Love of Mike"
Briefly Returned to work for Sennett
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" establishing him as a bankable director
First real talkie, "The Younger Generation"; "Submarine" had sound effects and snatches of dialogue
First collaboration with screenwriter Jo Swerling, "Ladies of Leisure"
First collaboration with screenwriter Robert Riskin, "Platinum Blonde"
Fifth and last collaboration for 14 years with Swerling, "Forbidden"
Earned first Academy Award nomination for Best Director for "Lady for a Day", adapted by Riskin from a Damon Runyan story
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)
Weighed in with the first of his social comedies, "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", winning second Best Director Academy Award
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
Earned Oscar nomination as Best Director for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", with Stewart in the title role; last film for Columbia
Formed Frank Capra Productions with Riskin
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
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
Received last Academy Award nomination as Best Director for "It's a Wonderful Life", starring Stewart; Swerling contributed additional scenes
Directed "Riding High", a remake of his earlier "Broadway Bill" (1934), starring Bing Crosby
Reteamed with Crosby for "Here Comes the Groom"; 11th and last collaboration with Riskin
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 due to content of "State of the Union" (1948)
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"
Directed last feature "A Pocketful of Miracles", a remake of "Lady for a Day"
Shot last film, "Rendezvous in Space", a short made for the Martin-Marietta Corporation
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; picture eventually released in 1969 with John Sturges at the helm
Left Hollywood with his wife to settle in La Quinta, California
Suffered a series of minor strokes and was under 24-hour nursing care in the late 1980s

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