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Frank Capra

Capra, Frank (kăpˈrə) [key], 1897–1991, American film director, b. Bisaquino, Sicily. One of the preeminent Hollywood directors of the 1930s and 40s, he produced idealistic populist movies that, sometimes amusingly and sometimes sentimentally but nearly always optimistically, celebrate the virtues of the common American. His family emigrated to the United States in 1903 and settled in Los Angeles. Starting in the movies in the early 1920s, he became a feature film director with Harry Langdon comedies, achieved commercial success with Platinum Blonde (1931), and won his first Academy Award with the "screwball" romantic comedy It Happened One Night (1934).

Capra's naively decent American heroes triumph over the forces of greed, cynicism, corruption, or self-doubt in such films as Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936; Academy Award), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Meet John Doe (1941), and the richly textured classic It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Among his movie-making innovations were accelerated pacing, conversational and sometimes overlapping dialogue, and previews that gauged audience reaction. Capra's many other films include Lost Horizon (1937), You Can't Take It With You (1938; Academy Award), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), State of the Union (1948), A Hole in the Head (1959), and his last, Pocketful of Miracles (1961).

See his autobiography (1971); biography by J. McBride (1992, repr. 2000); C. Wolfe, Frank Capra: A Guide to References and Resources (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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