- What Italian-American had the single greatest influence, without a weapon, in helping to be victorious in World War Two?
- Who coined “gee-whiz”?
- Who popularized “doodle/doodling”?
- How about “the pen is mightier than the sword?”
- Who was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who went to work for his subordinate after the war?
- What did Steven Spielberg say about our main character in this blog?
Did I draw your attention yet? I hope so. I think you will like this blog a lot. This writing is about a very patriotic American producer who was a great, great influence on the success of World War Two. I selected this particular producer because of his storied past and the willingness of this immigrant American to do something for his beloved America. This yet unknown subject of my blog had never done this type of filming until his nation had called on him, and only him, to do.
Who is this great immigrant American, Hollywood producer, famous for many movies before and after the war, long after the war? Not yet. Listen to this advertisement first.
Old Time Radio Foundation’s main mission is to improve the quality of life for residents, mostly seniors, living in residential nursing, hospice and veteran care facilities. We do this FREE; FREE for the residents and FREE for the facility (no band width). Not only FREE to these two categories, but also FREE to you, the American taxpayer. We use no, expect no, don’t anticipate any tax dollars before, presently or in the future. We only receive funds from the Kamaras Family (founders), corporate sponsors and YOU in the form of purchase of many mediums of quality, family entertainment.
Oh, by the way, there are no politics, sexual innuendo or any COMMERCIALS, just family fun. Do you have the image of the big, wooden radio of the ‘40’s with the mom and dad on the two cushioned chairs and the children on the floor? Everybody’s mind and eyes were solely directed to this noise emitting piece of furniture (it was so big to be classified furniture).
Again, this is how we exist; vending these radio shows, movies and TV shows. One hundred per cent of ALL profits go toward the mission. What is the mission? To donate to the resident veteran facilities throughout the country. Why veterans? You answer that question. Just think about their sacrifices they willingly made OR not so willingly sacrificed because they were drafted.
Donate what? These mind-engaging forms of entertainment are used to wile away the days/weeks/months and years. We greatly enhance the quality of life for each recipient across the country.
Some residents might have outlived their loved ones OR their loved ones don’t want to visit a resident in a veteran facility. Why wouldn’t they want to visit? How could that ever have happened? I will now and forever tell you why: It is too much for a visitor to bear. Think about it, to see their friend/relative live like this. This becomes an emotional torment for them.
Many well-known movies that are public domain are offered on microchips (SD), flash drives (thumb drives) AND SSD’s (Solid State Drives). We also offer tablets for viewing these movies, cellular phones and data plans. For residential care facilities, this is key because we are able to negotiate a discounted rate for our brothers/sisters. For individual purchases, we are still very, very competitive.
Our mystery guest was born on Sicily in May, 1897. Living on a fruit vineyard, his parents had plenty of help. No, not the paid type, but seven children. As you probably know, in America, as in probably all countries, farmers had as many children as mom could, unfortunately for her, bear. This wasn’t unfortunate for the farm, though.
Coming to America, the country with streets paved in gold, his family left Italy on May 10, 1903, arriving eight days later. On the trip over, keep in mind he was a mere six years old. Written in his biography: “There’s no ventilation and it stinks like hell. They’re all miserable. It’s the most degrading place you could ever be. Oh, it was awful, awful. It seems to always be storming, raining like hell and very windy, with these big long rolling Atlantic waves. Everybody was sick, vomiting. G-d, they were sick. And the poor kids were always crying.”
Now, can you imagine immigrants of today coming into America under the same circumstances? Probably not. Perhaps someone entering this wonderful nation of plenty illegally/undocumented might terribly share this experience. Let’s pray not.
Because the mystery guest’s brother Benjamin already was living in California, the entire family embarked to Los Angeles (a small city approximately 102,000 residents) by train. Unable to speak English, of course, they subsisted on water, bread and bananas which they brought with them for their journey to a new life.
This future true gentleman of influence in the medium of movies and making a major impact on the war effort had many small jobs to assist to pay for college. He sold newspapers and played the banjo in the lousiest taverns in LA. This was all in an effort to pay for his future college experience.
His love of his new-found country, wanting to show how much he revered his freedom, although NOT yet an American citizen, he enlisted in the US Army (My favorite. Why? I served 1969-1975.) This EM (enlisted man) entered as a private; left as an “officer and gentleman,” a second lieutenant.
During his tenure in the finest military branch that ever existed, (I am sure there are many yelling at me and the screen), he taught ballistics and mathematics to artillerymen. As a mortar man in the heavy weapons platoon, I remember the words: fire and azimuth. That’s it, nada, zero, zippo.
After the First World War, he attended/graduated/worked his way through the California Institute of Technology. (In the Army, I am sure he learned a few words in English which enhanced his schooling; other words which would not lend their usage in common parlance.)
HOLLYWOOD: EARLY YEARS
Capra, after having many jobs, including writing for a vaudeville comedian, had developed a keen understanding what course he wanted to traverse for his career development. He knew he would have greater influence, not writing comedy for vaudeville, but producing his brand of movies. His style of “feel-good” cinema productions was his target.
A great presentation in the theaters was “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936). Of interest, was where Gary Cooper was in court and said to the presiding jurist: “Doodler…..is a word we made up back home to describe someone who makes foolish designs on paper while they’re thinking.” Of course, Americans, as we always do, picked up this idiom in our lexicon. Why not? We were still in The Depression with not much work, not much money and not much fun.
Another wonderful production for all Americans and Europeans was the famous “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. This production had some very intended/unintended consequences; ntended for Capra; unintended for the politicians.
In fact, then U S Ambassador to England Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of future President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, drafted a letter to private citizen Capra. Kennedy’s intent was to keep this movie under wraps — not distributing to the European Theater of future war. Kennedy wrote: “…would do untold harm to America’s prestige in Europe.”
What was Capra’s response? Of course, he thought otherwise. Mr. Capra thought the movie served its intended purpose. He posited: this movie was a celebration of democratic ideals and freedom. In fact, this movie was the last American movie before the Nazi hordes invaded our Ally.
During this period of his development, we were blessed with the critics. Some critics, those who didn’t “get it” but were so entrenched in the status quo, would reference these master pieces as “Capra-esque”. Their intent was not to curry favor, but maintain their, and only their standing in the socio-economic structure.
In America, as well as beyond, we see that even today. Some things are impervious to view on the other side.
WORLD WAR II
Within four days of the attack on Pearl Harbor, this dominant force in Hollywood, even in 1941, left his well-paid position and joined the U S Army as a captain. Capra was 44 years of age. This willing enlistee would have been exempt from any requirement to join the military (even when the draft was enacted by Congress). But he felt the burning desire to do whatever he could, in the nation, for the nation that he learned and would ply his trade. His love-of-nation mentality certainly was no different, not at all, than the millions of other Americans of each gender, many stripes, religions, regions, socio-economic, races, and sexual orientation. This sneak attack by the Japanese was met with force, force delivered by the home front and the war front. We were unified unlike any other time in our brief history.
Remember, we were barely just recovering from 12 years of The Depression, an economic calamity that struck not only America, but far, far worse in the other nations of this earth where there was famine or contagion populating the streets.
During the early ‘30’s, when the Japanese and Nazis invaded other weaker countries, the vast majority of American citizens turned their backs. Why? There was a very logical reason. One, we were still in the throughs/depths of The Depression, attempting to recover; two, who could forget World War I, (The Great War, The War to End All Wars)? This philosophy was known as “isolationism”.
George C Marshall, the Chairman of the (as known today) Joint Chiefs of Staff, was a career military officer no citizen of either America or the world would soon forget. When I say “no citizen”, I mean just that. Not only the Allies, but the enemy as well, will never forget.
After WWII, (1947-1949), Mr. Marshall “acted” as the Secretary of State under “the private”, Harry S. Truman. During this tenure, Mr. Marshall drew on his experience from leading the largest military forces of all countries then and yet to come. (1939-1946)
His prowess in logistics was yet to save even more millions of lives. America single-handedly saved/fed the world. This “bread basket of democracy” did not, never, ever punish those citizens of the Axis nations who wanted to dominate the world with their military enslavement.
Within days of Capra’s enlistment, General Marshall ordered Captain Capra’s appearance in his office – “front and center”. (The Pentagon was built in 1941.)
Why did Capra leave his very “cushy” job in Hollywood? He wrote: ”I had a guilty conscience. In my films I championed the cause of the gentle, the poor, and the downtrodden. Yet, I had begun to live like the Aga Khan. The curse of Hollywood is big money. It comes so fast it breeds and imposes its own mores, not wealth, but of ostentation and phony status.”
The leader of all things military had a single purpose for this new captain under his direction. Marshall ordered Capra to produce documentaries for, initially, the enlistees to understand “why we fight”. Marshall understood the day before the ruthless attack on Pearl Harbor, the vast majority of these enlistees were isolationists. Marshall knew Americans as fun loving, the majority believed in G-d and Judai-Christian values, who were reared to never hurt another living thing/soul. Now, America faced the largest juggernaut ever assembled on the face of the earth.
During his first meeting with General Marshall, Capra was told his mission:
“To win this war, we must win the battle for men’s minds. . . . I want to nail down with you a plan 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.”
The only problem was: Capra had never produced a documentary.
“Gen. Marshall, it’s only fair to tell you that I have never before made a single documentary film.”
Marshall transfixed Capra with a cold stare that was known to have struck fear in military personnel as brave as George Patton, and replied, “Capra, I have never been Chief of Staff before. Thousands of young Americans have never had their legs shot off before. Boys are commanding ships today, who a year ago had never seen the ocean before.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Capra said. “I’ll make you the best damned documentary films ever made.”
“I’ll make you the best damned documentary films ever made.”
And many think, including this blogger, Capra could not have achieved greater success for his country.
Why did Capra leave the soft job he had?
After much research with his team of historians, sociologists, script writers, Capra knew how he was going to keep his commitment to the General.
The slant was going to be propaganda. Not propaganda created by the American film makers but by the enemy themselves. In all seven documentaries of “Why We Fight”, Captain-soon-to-be Major Capra and his team of military enlistees from the US War Department compiled film clips which the Axis themselves used to scare their enemy, depicting these invaders with their unusual style of marching — “goose stepping” and to enthrall their own citizenry on their home front. Nothing ever backfired on its protagonist like the Capra team did to the enemy.
The fact the Capra Team was assigned to the US War Department, instead of the Army Signal Corps where every other training film emanated, showed the significance of their mission. In the Army, as well as every branch now and memorial, “my” mission is tantamount to “my” very core, “my” ability to take another breath on this earth.
Now you know why Old Time Radio Foundation donates 100% of all profits to the residential veteran facilities in your state. (The state from which the sale of our products originates.)
After the War, referencing the seven documentaries by the team, Capra said: “A simple honest man, driven into a corner by predatory sophisticates, can, if he will, reach down into his G-d given resources and come up with the necessary handfuls of courage, wit and love to triumph.”
Also, after the War in historian Geoffrey Perret’s history-making novel There’s a War to be Won wrote: “It wasn’t Marshall who told American soldiers why they must fight, it was Hitler; it wasn’t Marshall who told them the war involved principles worth dying for, it was Tojo…There could be no more certain way to arouse young Americans.
What did the military officer say who gave him his instructions, say?
How about “With reference to “Prelude to War”, I wish you would express to Capra my admiration for the superb job he and his associates have done.” October 25, 1942, memo from Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall to Chief of Morale Brigadier General Frederick Osborn.
Although these movies were initially intended for recruits and all military personnel, the documentaries/movies found their way into the theaters across America and England. It would only be conjecture what factory worker on the home front worked a little harder, a little longer than expected or designated. What mother/father, aunt/uncle, neighbor would/could give meaning or an understanding to the loss of a friend/relative/neighbor?
Colonel Frank Capra received the Distinguished Service Medal from General George C. Marshall, 1945
What did the military think of his worth? Well, they promoted him to full colonel in the US Army. If that isn’t enough, how about the thanks of a grateful nation?
What did the Prime Minister of England Winston Churchill say after viewing the series? How about this for a reference for the next job: “I have never seen or read any more powerful statement of our cause or of our rightful case against the Nazi tyranny than these films portray.”
During the War, these intended documentaries were seen so favorably throughout the world, they were translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese.
Notably, the first release “Prelude to War” was the last American movie shown in France before the Nazi hordes invaded our friend.
As the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote in 1839 in his play: Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” I think this 44-year old soldier, a little overweight, shorter than most Americans, certainly did not need to be reminded of this adage.
A few years after the War, Mr. Capra was interviewed by the legendary Edward R. Murrow. On this new medium, television, Murrow queried: Mr. Capra, isn’t what you did in “Why We Fight” exactly what you accused the Axis doing; propaganda?
Not missing a beat, this war hero, although he never shot an
M-1, quipped: What the enemy did is propaganda; what we did is proper-ganda. Capra felt emboldened. Why? Capra was on the side of right and mercy. The enemy enslaved nations, slaughtered millions not in defense, but in hatred of their own soul.
In one of his famous quotes, Capra directed to young film makers: “Don’t follow trends. Start them. I thought drama was when the actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries.”
On September 4, 1991, in USA Today, mega producer Steven Spielberg said: “Frank Capra made old-fashioned American values and crying in the movies a national pastime. He celebrated the noblest impulses of woman and man, showed all of us our dark side and then pointed a flashlight at the way out.”
After the War, Capra did not garner his pre-War stature in Hollywood. Other than the dynamic “It’s a Wonderful Life”, this hero of the “pen” had a few successful movies. (See below.)
The L-rd brought this gentleman on the face of the earth, not to achieve wealth, which he certainly accomplished, but He brought this proud American to a free land, in large measure, to lead to the defeat of the foe.
Director (58 credits)
1964Rendezvous in Space (Documentary short)
1957The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (TV Movie)
1957Hemo the Magnificent (TV Movie)
1956Our Mr. Sun (TV Movie)
1945Here Is Germany (Documentary) (uncredited)
1945Your Job in Germany (Documentary short)
1945Know Your Enemy – Japan (Documentary) (uncredited)
1945War Comes to America (Documentary) (uncredited)
1945Two Down and One to Go (Documentary short)
1944The Battle of China (Documentary) (uncredited)
1944Tunisian Victory (Documentary)
1943The Battle of Britain (Documentary) (uncredited)
1943The Battle of Russia (Documentary) (uncredited)
1943Divide and Conquer (Documentary) (uncredited)
1943The Nazis Strike (Documentary short) (uncredited)
1942Prelude to War (Documentary) (uncredited)
1941Meet John Doe
1933Lady for a Day
1933The Bitter Tea of General Yen (as Frank R. Capra)
1932American Madness (as Frank R. Capra)
1932Forbidden (as Frank R. Capra)
1931Platinum Blonde (as Frank R. Capra)
1931The Miracle Woman (as Frank R. Capra)
1931Dirigible (as Frank R. Capra)
1930Rain or Shine (as Frank R. Capra)
1930Ladies of Leisure (as Frank R. Capra)
1929Flight (as Frank R. Capra)
1929The Donovan Affair (as Frank R. Capra)
1929The Younger Generation (as Frank R. Capra)
1928The Burglar (Short)
1928Submarine (as Frank R. Capra)
1928The Matinee Idol (as Frank R. Capra)
1928So This Is Love?
1926The Strong Man
1922The Barefoot Boy (Short)
1922The Looking Glass (Short) (as Frank R. Capra)
1922/IIThe Village Blacksmith (Short)
1922The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House (Short)
1921La visita dell’incrociatore italiano Libia a San Francisco, Calif., 6-29 novembre 1921 (Documentary short)
All Capra movies are on flash drives for sale by Old Time Radio Foundation. You know where 100% of all profits go; residential veteran facilities in the state from which the sale emanates.
Additionally, we offer tablets (7” to 18.3”) of many brands. Also, we vend phone and data plans for cellular usage. We are the recipient of mega-volume discounts. We sell many thousands of these devices/plans annually. We pass along the savings to you. Of course, as stated, again, the heroes in residential veteran facilities are the recipient of your generosity.
REMEMBER, WE DO NOT RECEIVE ANY GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE FOR THESE PRODUCTS OR IN THE MANAGEMENT OF OUR NON-PROFIT.