Saturday, December 19, 2009

More on the greatness of Frank Capra, preeminent American film director

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NOTE: Everything that follows is hereby clearly labeled as opinion as I am Constitutionally allowed to have an opinion under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The director John Cassavetes once asked, "Was there ever really an America or was it just Frank Capra?" The point of the question is that all that U.S. Americans see of themselves --their humor; moral strength; values; individuality and dignity-- are embodied in Capra films. Capra established the enduring template of how Americans behave and what we are. Americans seem to subconsciously emulate the heroes of Capra films. When we think of what it means to be American -- the best of America-- we fall back on depictions from Capra. One cannot ever say too much about the genius of Frank Capra, definitely the preeminent film director in all of American history.

One of the more outrageous distortions and, in my view, outright falsehoods, is a review I read at the Amazon website which called Capra a "misogynist." Nothing could be further from the truth. Has this reviewer ever seen a Capra film? Every Capra film has the woman effectively in charge and ALWAYS treats women with the utmost respect and dignity.


Don't believe me? Watch "Meet John Doe." Barbara Stanwyck is clearly the brainiest person in the film. She is calling all the shots; she is a strong, independent, gutsy woman. It is poor dumb Gary Cooper who is constantly befuddled. Stanwyck's portrayal is one of the most powerful portrayals of a woman in all of cinema history. Just watch the movie! Stanwyck is in charge! She calls the shots! Gary Cooper as "John Doe" is not nearly as bright or capable as Stanwyck's character.

Or take another example: "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." The greatest U.S. political film ever made.

What does Jimmy Stewart, as Senator Jefferson Smith, say of Jean Arthur? He goes out of his way to remark on how capable, bright and intelligent she is. Jean Arthur plays a woman who is obviously more savvy and shrewd than the naive Senator Smith.

Or another example: "It's a Wonderful Life." Who saves the day? Who is the hero/heroine?

It is Mary Daily. She gathers the town folk of Bedford Falls to save Jimmy Stewart. She is the one who is level-headed. She is the heroine of the picture. Donna Reed herself repeatedly stated in public that she was happy with being chosen to play Mary Daily and it was one of her favorite performances. She plays a beautiful, strong, intelligent woman. Indeed, it was one of Donna Reed's best and most memorable performances.

Is this misogyny? I cannot think of another motion picture director who was more pro-feminist and pro-women than Frank Capra; maybe there are those who were AS MUCH pro-feminist but none who were MORE. In other words, there may be those directors who equalled Capra's pro-female depictions on screen but NONE who surpassed them.

Thank goodness for the Internet. In the old days, pre-Internet, there were only a handful of people who were allowed to publish their views. In effect, it meant that only one side was ever heard. This one-sidedness stifled the truth. Falsehoods could easily be perpetuated. As Jacques Attali once observed, the loudspeaker was used to effectively stifle and drown out other opinions. Frank Capra even alluded to this in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" when one of his characters comments on how powerful interests could manipulate the mass media. Now, in the Internet age, others have a voice. The greatness and artistry of Capra can now be truly manifested and false conclusions can now be corrected.

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