Frank Capra Essay - Critical Essays

Joseph McBride

Frank Capra

Frank Capra was able to revive his reputation by writing his autobiography, THE NAME ABOVE THE TITLE, published by Macmillan in 1971, and was remembered thereafter as everybody’s favorite director. He went on to earn the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, and Joseph McBride was assigned to write the award show script in 1981, a research project that raised so many questions that McBride began to delve deeper in 1984, interviewing nearly two hundred people, many of whom had been contacted by no one else. The end result was McBride’s iconoclastic book, which gives the lie to the myths that Capra fabricated in his autobiography. Capra wanted people to think that he was apolitical, though his films seemed to espouse the idealism of FDR’s New Deal. McBride argues convincingly that the positive and humane idealism people had associated with Capra was in fact created in collaboration with Capra’s screenwriters, particularly Robert Riskin, who worked with Capra on nine of his best films during the 1930’s. After his retirement, Capra encouraged people to identify him with the central characters of his films, but those characters were not simply extensions of his own character.

McBride concedes that there is no questions that Frank Capra was a great and gifted director but shows that his own character was flawed. The portrait that emerges from the book is that of an arrogant, insecure, and ungenerous man who was stingy with giving credit...

(The entire section is 516 words.)