65. Frank Capra
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
It took an Italian immigrant, with his own rags to riches background to help define and refine American pop cinema. Some of his most notable movies include Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It’s a Wonderful Life, and his three Best Director Oscar pictures: It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and You Can’t Take it with You. These films helped give birth to the term “Capraesque,” or a film focusing on the triumph of the underdog. Born in Sicily, Capra came from a family opposed to higher education. Ignoring their desires, he went to Caltech where he studied engineering and poetry. The later eventually got him his first regular film job writing gags for the Keystone Kops. After a trail of false starts and failures he caught the eye of Columbia Studio’s Harry Cohn. At this point he wanted to make movies, and he wanted to make them fast. Under Cohn he cultivated an efficient shooting style aimed at trimming his shooting schedule, and abandoning old techniques that he felt slowed down the story. Then there was his engineering degree, which made him more comfortable with sound technology than other directors of the time. His product, both economic and of high quality soon became a favorite of Cohn’s — and of the actors who worked with him. Soon other studios used to lend out their more troublesome actors to the then tiny Columbia, because Capra could work with actors others couldn’t. Of course the world latched on to his optimistic subject matter that triumphed the idealistic everyman, a style that can even be seen reflected in the work of Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Ron Howard, and Altman.
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