An Italian immigrant, Frank Capra discovered at a young age “what would later become one of the most important themes of his movies: ‘One nation. . .with liberty and justice for all’” (Stewart 82). Capra often made movies about the little man doing great things, representing ideals and qualities that made the little man great. Those qualities included, common sense, family values, a religious (though not overt) dedication, fidelity, family values, and Americanism.
Capra’s films have been referred to as “Capracorn” because of their perceived “corny,” unbelievable, or over-the top endings. The crowning example of this is the closing scene of It’s a Wonderful Life, because it can be misconstrued as being sappy and too-happy of an ending for such a dark film.
Initially, this characterization hurt Capra’s feelings because he felt strongly about his films and the messages they carried. However, he later took this critical jab and turned it into a positive by calling most of his films “Capracorn” himself. To him, Capracorn came to mean
… a brew of the comic, the sentimental, the rhetorical, the
idealistic, and the melodramatic in which the values of the
man on the street were raised above those of official authority
in which, even at the cost of gliding over specific plot points,
there was inevitably a happy ending. (Dewey 268).
Capra has 58 film directing credits to his name, which reads like an American Film Institute Top 100 list.
Capra was born May 18, 1897 in Italy. He died Sept. 3, 1991, at age 94, but not before the Mayor of Los Angeles and the city council declared May 12, 1962 to be Frank Capra Day (Capra 488).
He is buried in Coachella Valley Public Cemetery, Riverside County, CA. If he was still alive, he would be 118 years old.
|Source: Find A Grave|
Capra, Frank. Frank Capra: the Name Above the Title, an Autobiography. New York: DaCapo Press, 1997.
Dewey, Donald. James Stewart: A Biography. Atlanta: Turner Publishing, Inc., 1996.
Stewart, Jimmy. “Frank Capra’s Merry Christmas to All.” Reader’s Digest Dec. 1991: 81-85.