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Bisacquino, Sicily
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Bisacquino, Sicily

Frank Capra was an Oscar-winning Italian-American film director and producer who won three Academy Awards for Best Director. He is acknowledged with being the creative power behind several of the key multiple-Academy Award winning films such as ‘It Happened One Night,’ ‘You Can’t Take It With You,’ and ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’ He was born in Italy to a poor family and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was a child. He grew up in poverty and had to work odd jobs while still in school to supplement his family’s low income. He went to the California Institute of Technology and worked his way through college. He suffered over the next few years, unable to find stable work. He was aimlessly drifting through life till he stumbled upon filmmaking and discovered his calling. In the 1920s, the burgeoning cinema business provided him with numerous opportunity to hone his craft. Starting with short films, he quickly progressed to big pictures, and his career as a filmmaker grew exponentially. Within a few years, he had established himself as one of Hollywood’s top directors. He was involved with a variety of political and social concerns within the film business in addition to making films.

Childhood and Adolescence

On May 18, 1897, in Bisacquino, Sicily, Italy, he was born Francesco Rosario Capra, the youngest of seven children born to Salvatore Capra and Rosaria “Serah” Nicolosi. His father worked in the fruit industry.
He and his family immigrated to the United States in 1903. His father worked as a fruit picker in an Italian hamlet in Los Angeles, California, where the family settled. Capra, too, began working at a young age to supplement the family’s finances.

His parents urged him to find work after high school, but the young man was set on attending college. He studied chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology and graduated in the spring of 1918. Throughout his undergraduate years, he worked odd jobs to help pay for his school.

Career of Frank Capra

At the time of his graduation, World War I was in full swing, and he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army. During his military service, he contracted Spanish flu and was medically discharged. By this time, his father had died, and the young man had gone home to live with his mother.

In 1920, he became a naturalized American citizen under the name Frank Russell Capra. Despite his college diploma, he was unable to find meaningful work at this time. He toiled for a few years with odd jobs before stumbling into the film industry by chance.

Frank Capra accepted an invitation to work with producer Harry Cohn at his new studio in Los Angeles after working with small companies filming short silent reels. This employment, in which he worked as a property man, film cutter, title writer, and assistant director, proved to be a career turning point.

Capra left the company to pursue other chances, but Cohn rehired him in 1928 to help his fledgling firm, Columbia Pictures, compete with the major studios by producing new, full-length feature pictures.

The late 1920s were a tumultuous moment in Hollywood, as talkies began to overwhelm silent pictures. Capra, who was technically trained, was able to quickly adjust to the new sound technology, while many others in the film industry struggled.

‘The Younger Generation,’ a part-talkie drama film, was his debut sound film, which he directed in 1929. It was mostly silent, with some dialogue segments, a synced music score, and sound effects thrown in for good measure.

Frank Capra rose to prominence as a filmmaker during the 1930s after making many films in his first year with Columbia. He crafted comedies that provided escapist amusement to hard-hit viewers when the world was struggling from the Great Depression.

He directed Claudette Colbert as a pampered socialite and Clark Gable as a roguish reporter in ‘It Happened One Night’ in 1934. Capra, Columbia Pictures, and performers Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert all became household names as a result of the film’s popularity.

He directed ‘Meet John Doe’ in 1941 after a string of critically acclaimed pictures. The picture, widely regarded as his most divisive, was claimed to portray a “deliberate reaffirmation of American principles.” It was a tremendous smash when it was released soon before America entered World War II.

He rejoined the US Army as a major during World War II, despite the fact that he was not required to enlist at the age of 44. During the war, he produced a series of propaganda films commissioned by the US government to explain American soldiers’ participation in the conflict.

He made his most famous film after the war, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946). The picture, which starred James Stewart and was nominated for five Academy Awards, is now regarded as one of the most inspirational American films of all time.

In the years that followed, Frank Capra directed several more films, but he never achieved the same level of popularity as he had in the years leading up to WWII. In 1964, he directed his final film, ‘Rendezvous in Space.’

He was president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences four times, and the Directors Guild of America three times.

Major Projects of Frank Capra

His film ‘It Happened One Night’ was a huge hit upon its release, winning all five Academy Awards for which it was nominated (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), making it the first picture to do so.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ considered one of his most memorable films, is one of the most popular American films today, despite not being a box office hit when it was released. It is ranked No. 1 on AFI’s list of the most inspirational American films of all time, having received five Academy Award nominations.

Achievements & Awards

Frank Capra won six Academy Awards, including three for Best Director for ‘It Happened One Night,’ ‘Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,’ and ‘You Can’t Take It With You,’ all of which he directed (1938).

Capra received the George Eastman Award for distinguished contribution to the art of filmmaking from George Eastman House in 1957.

In 1982, he was honored with the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award.

Personal History and Enduring Legacy

Helen Howell, an actress, was Frank Capra’s first wife in 1923. In 1929, the short-lived union came to an end.

In 1932, he married Lucille Warner and they had four children, one of them died in childhood. Lucille Warner died in 1984, and they remained married.

At the age of 88, he experienced a series of strokes.

At the age of 94, he died of a heart attack on September 3, 1991.

Estimated Net Worth

Frank is one of the wealthiest directors and one of the most well-known. Frank Capra’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.