The most honored and well-liked director of his generation, Sicilian-born Frank Capra graduated from the California Institute of Technology as a Chemical Engineering major. Down on his luck after service during World War I, he bluffed his way into the movie business and learned films from the bottom up, from the film lab to the prop department to the editing department. He settled in as a gagman during the 1920s, and soon became a director specializing in comedy. After a stint with Mack Sennett, Capra moved to Columbia Pictures, where he came into his own as a filmmaker.
Displaying a good feel for drama as well as comedy, and a common touch with which ordinary viewers could resonate, Capra quickly became the star among the tiny studio’s stable of directors. His pictures, starting with American Madness in 1932, displayed themes that audiences regarded as important and uplifting during the worst days of the Great Depression, and Capra, despite the relatively modest budgets with… read more
Born in Kiev, Michael Anatole Litwak was a stage actor and assistant director as a teenager. He entered Soviet cinema in 1923, working in Nordkino studios as a set decorator and assistant director. He directed his first film, the 1925 release Tatiana (Hearts and Dollars), but left the Soviet Union that year for Germany, where he edited G.W. Pabst’s Die Freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street, 1925), assistant directed, and helmed the early ‘30s features Dolly Macht Karriere (1931), Nie Wieder Liebe (1932), and Das Lied Einer Nacht (1933). Fleeing the Nazis, Litvak directed films in England and France, among them the international hit Mayerling (1936). He came to Hollywood in 1937, where he helmed many handsome and polished features, specializing in crime films (The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Castle on the Hudson, Out of the Fog) and romantic dramas (The Sisters, All This and Heaven Too). He worked on several Army documentaries during World War II, and co-directed… read more