Frank Capra

Film director

1897 – 1991


Who was Frank Capra?

Frank Russell Capra was an Italian-born American film director, producer and writer who worked his way from Los Angeles's Italian ghetto to become the creative force behind some of the major award-winning films of the 1930s and 1940s. His rags-to-riches story has led film historians such as Ian Freer to consider him the "American dream personified."

Capra became one of America's most influential directors during the 1930s, winning three Oscars as Best Director. Among his leading films was It Happened One Night, which became the first film to win all five top Oscars, including Best Picture. Other leading films included Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Lost Horizon, You Can't Take It With You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe, Arsenic and Old Lace, It's a Wonderful Life and State of the Union. Because of his early fame as a director, his name was listed "above the title" of his films when they were publicized. People "flocked to the theaters" during the 1930s and 1940s to see films directed by Frank Capra.

After World War II, however, Capra's career declined as his subjects were more out of tune with the mood of audiences. Critics described his films as being "simplistic" or "overly idealistic." However, the public loved his films, especially during the Great Depression years, when audiences needed uplifting themes of inspiration. His pictures let viewers witness "a triumph of the individual over corrupt leaders", and experience "inherent qualities of kindness and caring for others." Most of his best works have been revived and are today considered timeless fables filled with love and respect for the struggles of the common man.


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May 18, 1897
Also known as
  • Francesco Rosario Capra
  • Frank R. Capra
  • Col. Frank Capra
  • Frank Russell Capra
  • Mr. Frank Capra
  • Frank Robert Capra
  • Catholicism
  • Italian people
  • Italy
  • United States of America
  • California Institute of Technology
Sep 3, 1991
La Quinta
Resting place
Coachella Valley Public Cemetery

on July 23, 2013