HIST FrankCapra.jpgFrank Russel Capra deserves a day just for giving us the phrase “Platinum Blonde.” This most American of early filmmakers was actually born Franceso Rosario Capra in Sicily on May 18, 1897, and at age 5 was brought to the country he would help define, earning him honors on a day that best describes his own life on


Capra’s best-known film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” was a morality play about the power of the small man versus corporate oppression, opening to tepid reviews and remarks that his best years as a movie maker were behind him, but the movie struck a chord with movie goers all over the world and remains one the most optimistic and beloved films of all time.

He made his directorial debut in 1915 with “Our Wonderful Schools,” an educational documentary, a genre he would continually revisit during his long career. Capra entered the US Army during the First World War and became a naturalized US citizen in 1920.

He made the transition from Silent to sound movies effortlessly, and directed one classic movie after another until World War 2, when he went to work for the US War Department producing documentaries in support of the war effort.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” was made the year after the war, in 1946, and he would continue directing movies for another 15 years, winning an astounding 6 Academy Awards for Best Director along with dozens of other major awards.

Frank was also a political and social activist, a staunch union man who served as head of the Directors Guild of America, as well as serving as the President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. His wonderful life lasted 94 years, during which this hard working immigrant left his indelible stamp on the country he so loved.

•Suggested Activities: Checking out Capra’s body of work listed below.

Silent films
1915 Our Wonderful Schools Reliance Film Company Documentary / film editor
1921 La Visita Dell’Incrociatore Italiano LIBIA a San Francisco, California 32 minute, Documentary
1922 Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House Fireside Productions Short film
1926 The Strong Man Harry Langdon Corporation Harry Langdon
1927 Long Pants Harry Langdon Corporation Harry Langdon
1927 For the Love of Mike Robert Kane Productions Claudette Colbert / Ben Lyon
1928 That Certain Thing Columbia Viola Dana
1928 So This is Love? Columbia Shirley Mason
1928 The Matinee Idol Columbia Bessie Love / Johnnie Walker
1928 The Way of the Strong Columbia Mitchell Lewis / Alice Day / William Norton Bailey
1928 Say It with Sables Columbia Helene Chadwick / Francis X. Bushman / Margaret Livingston
1928 Submarine Columbia Jack Holt / Ralph Graves / Dorothy Revier
1928 The Power of the Press Columbia Douglas Fairbanks Jr. / Jobyna Ralston
1928 The Burglar Mack Sennett Short film / Co-directed with Phil Whitman
Sound films
1929 The Younger Generation Columbia Ricardo Cortez Talking sequences
1929 The Donovan Affair Columbia Jack Holt
1929 Flight Columbia Jack Holt / Ralph Graves
1930 Ladies of Leisure Columbia Barbara Stanwyck / Ralph Graves
1930 Rain or Shine Columbia Joe Cook
1931 Dirigible Columbia Jack Holt / Ralph Graves / Fay Wray
1931 The Miracle Woman Columbia Barbara Stanwyck
1931 Platinum Blonde Columbia Loretta Young / Robert Williams / Jean Harlow
1932 Forbidden Columbia Barbara Stanwyck / Adolphe Menjou
1932 American Madness Columbia Walter Huston Co-directed with Allan Dwan / Roy William Neill
1933 The Bitter Tea of General Yen Columbia Barbara Stanwyck / Nils Asther
1933 Lady for a Day Columbia May Robson / Warren William / Guy Kibbee
1934 It Happened One Night Columbia Clark Gable / Claudette Colbert
1934 Broadway Bill Columbia Warner Baxter / Myrna Loy
1936 Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Columbia Gary Cooper / Jean Arthur
1937 Lost Horizon Columbia Ronald Colman / Jane Wyatt
1938 You Can’t Take It With You Columbia Lionel Barrymore / Jean Arthur / James Stewart
1939 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Columbia James Stewart / Jean Arthur
1941 Meet John Doe Frank Capra Productions Gary Cooper / Barbara Stanwyck
1942 Prelude to War U.S. War Department Documentary / Co-directed with Anatole Litvak
1943 The Nazis Strike U.S. War Department Documentary / Short film / Co-directed with Anatole Litvak
1943 Divide and Conquer U.S. War Department Documentary / Co-directed with Anatole Litvak
1943 The Battle of Britain Warner Bros. Documentary / Co-directed with Anthony Veiller
1943 The Battle of Russia U.S. War Department Documentary / Co-directed with Anatole Litvak
1944 The Battle of China U.S. War Department Documentary / Co-directed with Anatole Litvak
1944 Tunisian Victory U.S. War Department Documentary / Co-directed with Hugh Stewart
1944 Arsenic and Old Lace [1] Warner Bros. Cary Grant / Priscilla Lane
1945 Your Job in Germany Documentary / Short film
1945 Know Your Enemy: Japan U.S. War Department Documentary / Co-directed with Joris Ivens
1945 Two Down and One to Go U.S. War Department Documentary / Short film
1945 War Comes to America U.S. War Department Documentary / Co-directed with Anatole Litvak
1946 It’s a Wonderful Life Liberty Films James Stewart / Donna Reed
1948 State of the Union Liberty Films Spencer Tracy / Katharine Hepburn
1950 Riding High Paramount Pictures Bing Crosby Remake of Broadway Bill
1951 Here Comes the Groom Paramount Pictures Bing Crosby / Jane Wyman
1956 Our Mr. Sun Bell Laboratories Eddie Albert / Lionel Barrymore Educational documentary / Producer and writer
1957 Hemo the Magnificent Bell Laboratories Richard Carlson / Dr. Frank Baxter / Mel Blanc Educational documentary / Producer and writer
1957 The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays Bell Laboratories Educational documentary
1958 The Unchained Mistress Bell Laboratories Richard Carlson Educational documentary / Producer and writer
1959 A Hole in the Head Sincap Productions Frank Sinatra / Edward G. Robinson First color film
1961 Pocketful of Miracles Franton Production Glenn Ford / Hope Lange / Bette Davis Eastmancolor film / Remake of Lady for a Day
1964 Rendezvous in Space Martin Marietta Mel Blanc / Danny Thomas / June Foray Educational documentary / Produced for 1964 New York World’s Fair

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