Born on May 18, 1897 Frank Russell Capra was a director, writer and producer who worked his way up from poverty to be the force behind major award-winning films of the 1930s and 1940s. Among his most famous films are: It Happened One Night in 1934 which won all five top Oscars including Best Picture. He also directed You Can't Take it With You in 1938 and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939. He stopped directing during WWII and served in the US Army. He produced propaganda films for the government, Why We Fight Wars series.
After the War Capra directed It's a Wonderful Life in 1946, and became the President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, worked with the Screenwriters Guild and was head of the Directors Guild of America.
Originally named Francesco Rosario Capra, born in Sicily near Palermo Capra immigrated to America with his family when he was five and the family settled in Los Angeles' East Side. He studied chemical engineering and graduated in 1918 from the California Institute of Technology.
His first directing job was a one-reel silent film made with unknown actors. He became a gag and slapstick comedy writer and wrote scripts for Harry Langdon. Capra went to work for Columbia Pictures and eventually directed twenty silent films. Capra's first sound film was The Younger Generation in 1929.
He directed Mr. Deeds Goes to Town in 1936 which gave Capra another Best Director Oscar. He also won in 1938 for You Can't Take it With You. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington became somewhat controversial for its satire about government officials. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won one.
Meet John Doe in 1941 was contentious but was made to reaffirm American values. In 1948 Capra's State of the Union was not a success, but he went on to direct Riding High in 1950 and Here comes the Groom in 1951. His first film in color was A Hole in the Head in 1959 and next was A Pocket Full of Miracles in 1961. His final film was Rendezvous in Space in 1964. This was an industrial film for the Martin Marietta Company.
Capra married Helen Howell in 1923 and divorced her in 1928. Lucille Warner was his second wife and they had four children. He died in his sleep at the age of 94 in 1991. He left part of his 1,100 acre ranch to Caltech.