Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Capra, Frank (1897–1991)

Hollywood filmmaker who produced a series of inspirational movies during the war years. Born on 19 May 1897, at Bisaquino, Sicily, Frank Capra immigrated to the United States with his family in 1903. After a stint in the army during World War I, he made a career as a director, emphasizing stories of ordinary Americans who overcame corruption, greed, or cynicism. His films included Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and Meet John Doe (1941).

When the United States entered World War II, Capra was making Arsenic and Old Lace. Putting the project on hold until 1944, he rejoined the army as a major and was assigned to the Morale Branch in February 1942. The army's chief of staff, General George C. Marshall, ordered Capra to "make a series of documented, factual-information films—the first in our history—that will explain to our boys in the Army why we are fighting, and the principles for which we are fighting." After studying Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will and other German propaganda films, Capra produced a series of seven movies entitled Why We Fight. The first of these documentaries was released in October 1942. The films were shown not only to the troops but also in war plants starting in April 1943 and then to the general public by the end of May 1943. They were designed to be educational, inspirational, and recreational. Each examined what was seen as a totalitarian conspiracy to take over the free world.

After the last of these movies, subtitled War Comes to America, was released in 1945, Capra returned to civilian life to form Liberty Films. He continued to make movies until 1961. Capra died in La Quinta, California, on 3 September 1991.

T. Jason Soderstrum


Further Reading
Capra, Frank. The Name above the Title: An Autobiography. New York: Belvedere, 1982.; Glatzer, Richard, and John Raeburn. Frank Capra: The Man and His Films. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1975.; Maland, Charles J. Frank Capra. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.
 

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