Frank Capra’s Not-So-Sunny Vision of American Life


Frank Capra, 1937 / Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons

Capra’s films are known for being upbeat and sometimes cheesy, but beneath the surface are rather dark stories of American corruption.


By Peter Feuerherd
Professor of Journalism
St. John’s University


Hollywood director Frank Capra was born in Sicily as Francesco Rosario Capra on May 18th, 1897. He settled in Los Angeles with his immigrant family at five years old, and reached his height of Hollywood influence during the 1930s.

There are two main critical views on Capra’s work. One is that his films are “Capracorn,” kitschy stories about American small town heroes who conquer evil forces through grit and determination. Ronald Reagan, for one, saw Capra’s films as offering an optimistic view of American life, extolling the power of the individual.

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