Hollywood film director Frank Capra (1897-1991) was born on this day in Bisacquino, Sicily, Italy and moved to Los Angeles with his parents in 1903. A champion of the "common man," his feel-good movies of the 30s and 40s have become classics.
He recalled: "I made some mistakes in drama. I thought the drama was when the actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries."
Following a stint as an instructor in the Army during the first world war, Capra made his first feature film Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, in 1926. "Compassion is a two-way street," he said.
With the U.S. emerging from the thros of Depression, Capra understood the needs of the everyday American. He gave the public simplicity, comedy, and sentimentality, with heavy emphasis on mood and characterizations. Capra won Oscars for It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), and You Can't Take It With You (1938).
With other such beloved films as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) and It's A Wonderful Life (1946), Capra celebrated optimism and core values--the triumph of old-fashioned honesty over greed, why it's good to be alive, and the necessity to be true to oneself.
He relied on the performances of strong, heroic stars: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Barbara Stanwyck, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, and Claudette Colbert carried his film message with fast-paced acting.
"There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins," Capra said. "And the cardinal sin is dullness."
In later years Capra became an advocate for the rights of film-makers to have artistic control and led the way in establishing the Directors' Guild, becoming the organization's first president.
More Film-Making Quotations
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