director frank capra

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On Friday, In a Heartbeat was featured alongside a selection of incredible films by our peers, and we are very proud and humbled to have received the Gold Award from the Best of Ringling show!

Steve Hickner, a director from DreamWorks Animation and juror of the show, wrote:

“In a Heartbeat is such a self-assured treasure of a movie that it is hard to believe that the film has been fashioned by a couple of student filmmakers (Beth David and Esteban Bravo). From its opening frame to its closing, the film is an absolute delight to behold. The character design is terrific and is keenly suited for the pitch-perfect style of animation the the directors have chosen. When I watched the film for a second time - it’s that good - I marveled at how every choice the moviemakers made seemed right, and they were always adept at directing the audience’s eye to just the right place.

I consider myself lucky to be the first to bestow a prize to In a Heartbeat because I have no doubt that this award will be only the first of many this bullseye-of-a-film is likely to receive. One of my favorite directors, Frank Capra, once said: “Only the valiant can create, only the daring should make films, and only the morally courageous are worthy of speaking to their fellow man for two hours (or four minutes) and in the dark.” With your brilliant and timely film, Beth and Esteban, you have succeeded on all counts.”

We are so grateful to receive this award and we want to thank all of our friends and family who continue to support us through this journey!

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James Stewart and director Frank Capra visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC during the filming of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.” - Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address  

William Wyler at His Most Personal: THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (’46) by Jill Blake

In 1942, after the United States entered into World War II, William Wyler enlisted in the United States Air Force. During his service, he flew on several bombing missions, including with the crew of the legendary Memphis Belle. During these missions, Wyler shot footage which was later edited and released as the 1944 documentary film MEMPHIS BELLE: A STORY OF A FLYING FORTRESS. Wyler also accompanied a bomber squadron in the Mediterranean, filming some of their missions for another documentary, THUNDERBOLT!, which wasn’t finished and released until 1947, a full two years after the war ended. After spending countless hours in noisy bomber planes, Wyler discovered he had suffered severe nerve damage in one of his ears, resulting in total hearing loss. Because of that hearing loss, Wyler was unsure if he would have a future in filmmaking. Not only did he return home as a disabled veteran, but he was also a profoundly changed man, much like his fellow directors John Ford, Frank Capra, George Stevens and John Huston, who had also served and captured much of the valuable footage of World War II that is available to us today. (Their wartime experiences and post-war work is brilliantly explored in Mark Harris’s must-read book, Five Came Back, and the adapted miniseries of the same name, currently available on Netflix.) After regaining a portion of his hearing in the damaged ear, Wyler set out to direct his most ambitious project to date, as well as his most personal: THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (‘46).

Like so many veterans of World War II, Wyler struggled with his physical disability and with adapting to civilian life after spending years away from his family. To mark his return to Hollywood, Wyler was drawn to direct a film project where he could put a spotlight on not just the physical and mental toll the war had on returning veterans, but the difficulties with transitioning from soldier to civilian. Most war films of the era avoided the struggles of servicemen being uprooted from their jobs and disconnected from their loved ones to be thrown into unspeakably horrific and unfamiliar situations. Wyler felt like he owed it to his fellow brothers in arms, to show the rest of America—and the world—the real and very complicated cost of war. As part of that necessary cost, Wyler wanted to explore the loneliness and isolation that many returning veterans experienced and quietly suffered through, despite being surrounded by family and friends; and the unbreakable and complicated brotherly bonds that were formed with their fellow servicemen. But most importantly, showing the long, difficult journey of men and their families coming to terms with the fact that things can never be the same as they were before the war.

For the on-screen adaptation of author MacKinlay Kantor’s novella Glory for Me, producer Samuel Goldwyn hired screenwriter Robert E. Sherwood. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES would tell the story of three servicemen returning home to the fictional town of Boone City, after spending several years in the war. Wyler wanted to make sure that the characters were real and relatable, and he insisted upon casting a young disabled veteran, Harold Russell. After enlisting in the Army, Russell was stationed stateside for the Army as an instructor. While shooting footage for a training film, Russell was badly injured by a defective explosive device. As a result, Russell lost both of his hands, and was left with a pair of prosthetic hooks. After seeing Russell in a short film about disabled veterans, Wyler knew he was the right choice to play the high school football star-turned-sailor, Homer Parrish.

For the other two servicemen featured in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, Wyler cast veteran actor Fredric March and Dana Andrews. March, who was in his late forties and slipping past his prime as a romantic leading man and transitioning to more character-driven roles, was cast in the part of Sergeant Al Stephenson. Before the war, Al was a well-respected banker living in a luxury apartment in Boone City with his wife of twenty years, Milly (Myrna Loy) and two children, Peggy (Teresa Wright) and Rob (Michael Hall). Dana Andrews was cast in the role of Captain Fred Derry, a decorated bomber pilot who finds his war record has little influence on the civilian world, and as a result, has difficulty finding work and a sense of greater purpose.

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is a carefully woven tale of how these three men and their families, each from different backgrounds, adjust and reintegrate into a life outside of the war, while battling their emotional and physical challenges. For Homer, he not only has to contend with a new and drastically different existence because of his prosthetic hooks, but he struggles with his family’s treatment of him. He fails to understand, at least initially, that much like him, his family and his fiancée Wilma (Cathy O’Donnell) must adjust to the new normal. But before they can do that, there is a long, difficult period of grieving. And although he feels like he has fully dealt with his disability, Homer hasn’t even begun to face the mental aspect, succumbing to feelings of worthlessness, depression and embarrassment, and pushing away those who love him unconditionally, in a desperate act of self-defense. For Al, he’s struggling with transitioning back to a job where he is forced to value a person’s worth by what’s on paper rather than what’s inside of them, which is in direct opposition to how he fought the war alongside his fellow soldiers. He also has to come to terms with his children growing up, especially his daughter Peggy, who is now a strong, fearless young woman. To cope with these difficult changes, Al self-medicates with alcohol. His wife, Milly, understands her husband’s struggles and remains a steadfast presence in his life, lending support whenever she can. And for Fred, all he wants is to feel valued like he was in the Air Force (which was technically the U.S. Army Air Force during WWII), and have a respectable job so that he can provide for his wife, Marie (Virginia Mayo), whom he married in the days leading up to his deployment. But the medals and citations Fred earned sadly carry no meaning outside of the Air Force, and he is forced to return to his old job at the drug store as a soda jerk. This feeling of inadequacy is compounded by his vivid flashbacks (which today we identify as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD). And unlike his fellow Boone City veterans Al and Homer, Fred lacks the resources and support network they have and often take for granted.

In the wrong hands, a story like this could have very easily been a sappy, over-the-top melodrama with gratuitous reliance upon patriotism and the dramatic after-glow of the war to drive the motivations of the characters. There is no emotional manipulation of the audience. Instead, William Wyler crafted a meaningful, heartfelt and real look into the lives of men who literally gave everything they had to fight for the most basic of human rights. And although the war was over and won, these men continued their sacrifice for the rest of their lives. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES was Wyler’s love letter to his fellow servicemen, and we’re fortunate that he chose to share it with all of us.

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We’ve got an incredible find here folks! These 2 tins we found contained several rolls of 35mm negatives from the 11th Academy Awards in 1939. Some Hollywood’s greats are in these photos, including Shirley Temple, Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy, Deanna Durbin, director Frank Capra, and even Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen. This is also the year that Walt Disney was given an Oscar for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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Chuck Jones and Ted Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, met during WWII when they both contributed to the war effort by creating, writing, and directing Private SNAFU shorts for the Armed Services under the production of Frank Capra. Here they’re shown during the sound recording for their 1966 “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” animated television special. They remained friends until Geisel’s death in 1991. 

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Tips to #DefeatMalaria from Private Snafu for World Malaria Day

Private Snafu v. Malaria Mike, 1944

Desperate for effective training films for masses of new recruits during World War II, the Army turned to Hollywood and Oscar-winning director Frank Capra. In order keep soldiers’ attention, Capra recruited talented men such as Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny and Private Snafu), Chuck Jones, and Theodor Geisel to create humorous, sometimes raunchy, cartoons. This team of creative minds partnered with Warner Brothers studios to create the character, Private Snafu

Private Snafu was intended to relate to the non-career soldier. In most of the cartoons, Snafu (an acronym for Situation Normal All Fouled Up) learns a valuable lesson when he disobeys basic army protocol (although his mistake proves fatal here in Malaria Mike).  Snafu tends to be more provocative than a typical cartoon, especially by 1943 standards. Geisel and his team believed that scantily dressed women, mild foul language, and sexual innuendoes would help keep soldier’s attention. Because the Snafu series was only intended for Army personnel, producers could avoid traditional censorship.

via Media Matters » Uncle Sam-I-Am: Dr. Seuss’s Private Snafu

Academy Awards Dinner... and Dancing!

Until 1943, the Academy Awards were handed out at banquets held in some of Los Angeles’s glitziest hotels. To celebrate achievements in filmmaking for 1932/33, the Academy chose the Fiesta Room at the Ambassador Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The sixth annual ceremony, held on March 16, 1934, was attended by more than 200 industry notables.

At the festive black-tie affair, guests danced to the music of legendary bandleader Duke Ellington. The cost of hiring Ellington and his orchestra was budgeted at $500, but all told the banquet dance music topped out at $740—comparable to that of the Awards statuettes. It was a busy week for Ellington, who had just finished recording and filming the song “Memphis Blues” with Mae West for the soundtrack of Belle of the Nineties at Paramount.

Los Angeles radio station KHJ offered to broadcast part of the program, including a few numbers performed by Ellington’s band, but the Academy opted for “No radio. No speeches.”

Director Frank Capra, a first-time nominee for Lady for a Day, reserved two tables of eight for the evening. Capra would go on to lead the Academy as President from 1935 to 1939 and enjoy a distinguished career, helming such classics as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life.

The creative work and career papers for many of the movers and shakers on the Awards Committee who organized the program—among them Cecil B. DeMille, Henry King, Robert Z. Leonard, and Mary Pickford—form part of the Library’s Special Collections.

Check out the Academy Awards Collection, in Digital Collections, to view selected Academy Awards photographs, programs, and ephemera from the Library’s extensive holdings.

The Oscars®, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, will air on Sunday, March 2, live on ABC.

Help us build the world’s premier motion picture museum.

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PEP (Person of Exceptional Prominence) Spot Light: FRANK CAPRA (May 18, 1897 – September 3, 1991)

 

Strange, isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives.  When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”  (quote from Clarence the Angel to George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life”).   Frank Capra, director of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, may have never known how many people viewed his films, but the impact of the films he created while he served in the US Army helped promote morale and focus to what the military mission was during World War 2.

Frank Capra’s military record is one of our PEPs (Persons of Exceptional Prominence) at the National Archives at St. Louis.   Due to the high volume of attention and research on his military career Mr. Capra’s record was placed in the PEP category and digitally copied.   The Preservation Programs at St. Louis treats and stabilizes the documents by placing them in polyester film sleeves, removing fasteners and staples, scanning the documents individually, and placing them on DVDs so researchers can access exact replicas and prevent damage to the original documents. 

As we continue to protect and preserve these important military records, it reminds us of another quote that Clarence the Angel told George Bailey, “You see George, you really have had a wonderful life”.  We are protecting the wonderful life stories of people like Mr. Capra, who served his country with his talents and lived his life to the fullest.  We are hoping that through preserving his records, we will earn our wings (I think I just heard a bell ring!).    Happy Holidays from the Preservation Programs of the National Archives.