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Re-visioning Frank Capra

2. 1929 to 1945

2. 1929–1938

  1. Vito Zagarrio

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf023

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

Zagarrio, V. 2011. Re-visioning Frank Capra. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 2:2:23.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011


Frank Capra has been consistently identified as a populist, at times a demagogic, conservative filmmaker, whose films have long been classified as escapist fantasies of goodwill portraying a comic, optimistic, sentimental view of American life. He often has been described as a populist because his films are both for and about the “little people,” celebrating the vitality, ingenuity, noble aspirations, and strength of character of the common man. He prescribes small-town good-neighborliness as an antidote to the greed, evil, and selfishness of cynical big-city villains. His good-neighbor policy, the flavor of “Capracorn,” and the message that happiness comes from little things (and certainly not from money) have defined — but also confined — Capra to a narrow, optimistic vision of New Deal-era America. This has made it easy to deny him the significant dignity of “authorship” and to place him within the tradition of “American visions,” as Raymond Carney does in his book American Vision, or as Joseph McBride does in his biography, The Catastrophe of Success.


  • capra;
  • the great depression;
  • comedy;
  • counter-reading;
  • film;
  • optimism;
  • pessimism;
  • New Deal;
  • American myth