FRANK CAPRA Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Name: Frank Capra.                                                                     
Birth name: Francesco Rosario Capra                                                     
Born: 18 May 1897 Bisacquino, Sicily, Italy                                             
Died: 3 September 1991 La Quinta, California, U.S.                                     
Frank Capra (18 May 1897 – 3 September 1991) was an Academy Award winning             
Italian-American film director and a major creative force behind a number of           
highly popular films of the 1930s and 1940s, including It's a Wonderful Life and       
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, among others.                                             
Born Francesco Rosario Capra in Italy, Sicily, Capra moved to the United States         
in 1903 with his father Salvatore, his mother Rosaria Nicolosi and his siblings         
Giuseppa, Giuseppe, and Antonia. In California they met up with Benedetto Capra,       
(the oldest sibling) and settled in Los Angeles, California, where, in 1918,           
Frank Capra graduated from Throop Institute (later renamed the California               
Institute of Technology) with a B.S. degree in chemical engineering. On October         
18, 1918, he joined the United States Army. While at the Presidio, he got               
Spanish influenza and was discharged on December 13. In 1920, he became a               
naturalized citizen of the United States, registering his name as Frank Russell         
Like other prominent directors of the 1930s and '40s, Capra began his career in         
silent films, initially as a "prop man" and worked his way up to the director's         
chair. notably by directing and writing silent film comedies starring Harry             
Langdon and the Our Gang kids. In 1930 Capra went to work for Mack Sennett and         
then moved to Columbia Pictures where he formed a close association with               
screenwriter Robert Riskin (husband of Fay Wray) and cameraman Joseph Walker. In       
1940, however, Sidney Buchman replaced Riskin as writer.                               
For the 1934 film It Happened One Night, Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy were           
originally offered the roles, but each felt that the script was poor, and Loy           
described it is one of the worst she had ever read, later noting that the final         
version bore little resemblance to the script she and Montgomery were offered. After   
Loy, Miriam Hopkins and Margaret Sullavan also each rejected the part.                 
Constance Bennett wanted to, but only if she could produce it herself. Then             
Bette Davis wanted the role, but she was under contract with Warner Brothers           
and Jack Warner refused to loan her to Columbia Studios. Capra was unable to           
get any of the actresses he wanted for the part of Ellie Andrews, partly because       
no self-respecting star would make a film with only two costumes. Harry Cohn           
suggested Claudette Colbert to play the lead role. Both Capra and Clark Gable           
enjoyed making the movie, Colbert did not. After the 1934 film It Happened One         
Night, Capra directed a steady stream of films for Columbia intended to be             
inspirational and humanitarian.                                                         
The best known are Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, the original Lost Horizon, You Can't         
Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It's a Wonderful Life. His         
ten-year break from screwball comedy ended with the comedy Arsenic and Old Lace.       
Among the actors who owed much of their early success to Capra were Gary Cooper,       
Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant and Donna Reed. Capra         
credited Jean Arthur as "my favorite actress".                                         
Capra's films in the 1930s enjoyed success at the Academy Awards. It Happened           
One Night was the first film to win all five top Oscars, Best Picture, Best             
Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. In 1936, Capra won his         
second Best Director Oscar for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and in 1938 he won his           
third Best Director Oscar in just five years for You Can't Take It with You             
which also won Best Picture. In addition to his three directing wins, Capra             
received directing nominations for three other films (Lady for a Day, Mr. Smith         
Goes to Washington, and It's a Wonderful Life). He was also host of the 8th             
Academy Awards ceremony on March 5, 1936.