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The Films of Frank Capra

Academy-Award winner Frank Capra had his share of critics. They coined the term “Capra-corn” because of Capra’s drippy, melodramatic storylines. But when one looks for film about the comedy or faith found in life or to see the underdog win, Frank Capra’s films are the ones to watch.

During The Great Depression, Capra had his chance to boost the morale and spirits of America with his comedies. He succeeded with “Platinum Blonde” (1931), his Oscar-winning film “It Happened One Night” (1934) and “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938).

However, Capra’s films were not always light-hearted and instead dealt with large-scale themes. “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” (1939) depicted the corruption and fragility of the democratic government when an average working man “Jefferson Smith” (Jimmy Stewart) goes to Washington to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate. In “Meet John Doe” (1941) depicted a seemingly flawless philosophy to deal with society's ills when newspaper reporter "Anne Mitchell" (Barbara Stanwyck) hires a homeless man (Gary Cooper) to be the face of this philosophy as "John Doe."

When America entered World War II, Frank Capra’s subject matter became even more politically-based with his series of short documentary films called “Why We Fight.” The series included seven short films and was a serious undertaking for Capra himself. Capra was ordered by the US Government to makes these films to show the military and the public what they were supporting and fighting for. Every branch of Hollywood, including the three major film studios - MGM Studios, Paramount Studios and Twentieth Century Fox. Walt Disney and his studios provided animation for the various films. The seven films were made and shown throughout the course of the war, starting with "Prelude To War" in 1942 to the last "The Battle For China" (1944).

The hallmark of Capra’s work, “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1945), is the Christmas film which makes its way into everybody’s home during the holiday season. All of Capra’s trademark themes culminate into this one beautiful film.

As Capra himself once said, “Film is one of the three universal languages, the other: mathematics and music.” And if there’s anything which can be said about Frank Capra’s work is that they possess universal themes all of us can believe in.

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