Born: 18 May 1897
Died: 3 September 1991 (heart failure)
Birthplace: Bisacquino, Italy
Best known as: The director of It's a Wonderful Life
Frank Capra was Hollywood's leading director in the mid-1930s and 1940s, when he won three best director Oscars in just five years for his films It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and You Can't Take it With You (1938). His comedies combined sentimental uplift with romance, comedy and patriotism, and usually involved the triumph of the decent common man over a corrupt system. His leading actors included Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart. During World War II he made a series of documentaries for the U.S. Army, titled Why We Fight, but after the 1940s his career waned. His most famous film is It's a Wonderful Life (1946), the story of a frustrated small-town banker (Stewart) who gets the chance to see how the lives of those around him would be different if he had never been born. In 1973 the copyright to It's a Wonderful Life expired and the movie became an annual Christmas TV favorite, renewing public appreciation for Capra's career.
Extra credit: The American Film Institute gave Capra its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1982... "Capra-esque" is a term ofen used to describe movies that combine whimsy and sentimental idealism. Another more cynical term is "Capra-corn."
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