He was one of the most famous directors of his time. Indeed, in Hollywood history. Truly extraordinary.
Movie fans knew what to expect if they went to a Frank Capra film: a sympathetic story about the “faceless little man;” a superb technical approach (Capra is mentioned in the same breath with D.W. Griffith) favoring inventive uses of sound, an increasingly fast pace, overlapping speakers; screwball comedy; canny use of crown scenes and — often — a thematic “message.”
One critic enthused that Capra’s work is on the order of those of the silent Russian cinema at its zenith.
The director’s personal story is compelling. Born the youngest of seven children of an impoverished Sicilian fruit grower, he migrated to the U.S. at the age of six — “in a howling Atlantic storm in the Germania’s black steerage hold, crammed with retching, praying, terrorized immigrants.”
He led a long life (he died in 1991 at the age of 94) having scaled the Hollywood heights both onscreen and off. He made his first movie in the early Twenties, and never stopped working over the ensuing four decades.
You probably know a fair amount about Capra already, but let’s see how you do with our Capra Quiz. As usual questions today and answers tomorrow.
1) Question: Capra’s films with made or solidified genuine star status of which of the following? a) Barbara Stanwyck; b) James Stewart; c) Claudette Colbert; or d) Clark Gable.
2) Question: Although Oscar nominated multiple times as best director, Capra never won an Academy Award. a) True; or b) False.
3) Question: Early in his career Capra formed a genuinely productive working relationship with which one of the following moguls? a) Darryl Zanuck; b) Louis B. Mayer; c) Howard Hughes; or d) Harry Cohn.
4) Question: Which one of his many successful films did Capra like most? a) 1931’s The Miracle Woman; b) 1934’s It Happened One Night; c) 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington; or d) 1946’s It’s A Wonderful Life.
5) Question: In a stunning admission, Capra publicly admitted that he had “lost his nerve” by the early Fifties wasn’t the same man either as a person or a talent. a) True; or b) False.