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Profile of the Day: Frank Capra

On this day in 1897, director Frank Capra was born. One of the most prominent and influential filmmakers of the 1930s, Capra won three Academy Awards for Best Director.

Image: Frank Capra / Library of Congress

Capra was born Francesco Rosario Capra in the village of Bisacquino, near Palermo, Sicily, Italy. He was the youngest of seven children born to Salvatore Capra, a fruit grower, and Rosaria Sarah Nicolosi. When he was five, the family immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles, California. In 1918, he graduated from what is today the California Institute of Technology with a degree in chemical engineering. After college he was commissioned in the United States Army as second lieutenant and taught mathematics to artillerymen at Fort Point in San Francisco during World War I. While in the army, he contracted the Spanish Flu and was medically discharged.

For a while Capra remained unemployed. He took on odd jobs to make ends meet despite being the only person in his family to receive a college degree. Then in 1922, Capra was hired to direct the one-reel film, The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House. The job marked Capra’s first foray into filmmaking as a profession.

Throughout the 1930s Capra directed films starring some of Hollywoods biggest stars, including It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Capra put his flourishing directing career on hold and received a commission as a major in the United States Army. He produced propaganda films, such as the Why We Fight series, throughout the war. After World War II, Capra directed the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. Although it initially received mixed reviews and was unsuccessful at the box office, it was nominated for five Academy Awards. Today the film is a Christmas classic and is often considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.

Capra died on September 3, 1991 at the age of 94.

Explore Frank Capra’s family tree on Geni and discover how you’re connected.

View Frank Capra’s Geni Profile

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The post Profile of the Day: Frank Capra first appeared on The Geni Blog.


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