How much did you know about the famed director of so many classics?
(Yup, the stars of the classic below are pictured with the director above.)
Did you know that his immigrant Italian back round left him with a hatred of being poor, and a determination to pursue chemical engineering at CalTech — which changed his whole viewpoint on life from (that) of an alley rat to a cultured person?
Frank Capra actually worked his way via various jobs through CalTech and graduated in 1918, the first of his family — which had migrated from Sicily to California — to make it through higher education, and Capra was then inducted into the military as a second lieutenant teaching mathematics to artillerymen at Fort Scott in San Francisco.
After surviving a burst appendix, which laid him up for a year, Capra took off on the road in the West, working jobs as various as a hustling poker player and a salesman of wildcat oil stock. His entry to the movie business came when Capra answered a newspaper ad placed by an old Shakespearean actor (Walter Montague) who was setting up a studio in an abandoned gymnasium in San Francisco.
By the early Twenties, Capra was behind the camera — on a one-reeler based on a Rudyard Kipling ballad. Throughout the decade Capra graduated to Mack Sennett ventures including titles made with comedian Harry Langdon (pictured below).
By the end of the silent era, Capra had linked up with fledgling CBC Sales Corp. operated by……(see answer to Question 3).
His career was off and running. Herewith the answers to our Frank Capra Quiz.
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.
Answer: Sorry. Another of our trick questions. All of the above immensely benefitted from their appearances in films directed by Capra. Stanwyck, in particular was launched to stardom after her leading role in the director’s 1930’s title, Ladies of Leisure.
2) Question: Although Oscar nominated multiple times as best director, Capra never won an Academy Award. a) True; or b) False.
Answer: b) False. He received over his long career three Oscar nominations — for 1933’s Lady For a Day, 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and 1946’s It’s A Wonderful Life. He also won as best director three times for 1934’s It Happened One Night, 1936’s Mr. Deeds Goes To Town and 1938’s You Can’t Take It With You.
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.
Answer: Yup, it’s (d) the legendarily disliked studio mogul, Harry Cohn, who began his Hollywood sojourn with the independent company (mentioned above) and then graduating 1924 to Columbia Pictures. The latter pledged to make feature films, a goal advanced by Capra who directed nine pictures in his first year under Cohn (pictured with Capra below). And, yes, the director and the mogul got along pretty well.
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.
Answer: d) It’s A Wonderful Life.
5) Question: In a stunning admission, Capra publicly admitted that he had “lost his nerve” by the early Fifties, and wasn’t the same man either as a person or a talent. a) True; or b) False.
Answer: b) True. In his 1971 memoir, The Name Above The Title, Capra wrote that from the Fifties on, I fell, never to rise to be the same man again either as a person or as a talent…I lost my nerve….for fear of losing a few bucks.