It Happened One Night
Dir: Frank Capra
Americans don't trust their government.
They don't trust their banking system.
They certainly don't trust politicians.
The American poor increasingly cannot believe in the American dream.
And the world increasing doesn't trust America in its role as the benign, paternal nation, looking out for the rest of the world.

But Frank Capra did believe in America. He could see its faults, and he could see the threats both internal and external to the American way of life. But his films come from a foundation of great love for his country and its people.

And he made films that reflected his belief - films that showed that the greatness of America came from the spirit of the American people.

He believed in the American dream because he had lived the American dream.

Coming from a poor family of Italian immigrants who had travelled the long journey in steerage class to a new life.
Capra put himself through college studying engineering, waiting tables, playing banjo at nightclubs and working at a power plant.

Life was never easy for Capra. He joined the army, but caught Spanish flu and was discharged. He found it hard to find a job, working as a farm-worker, travelling salesman, and as a movie extra.

He suffered from ill health, and was found to have a burst appendix which had never been treated.

He finally bluffed his way into a San Francisco studio, and got a chance to direct short silent films. The film industry needed smart, literate people who understood the mechanics of the film-making equipment and would work cheap, and Capra fitted the bill.

When sound arrived, many directors were scared by it. Firstly, the technology was complex and somewhat limiting. Secondly, it changed the whole grammar of film-making, and those who had learnt their skills in the silent era found it hard to adapt.

But Capra, with his engineering degree, understood the mechanics, and was fresh enough to not be stuck in the silent era.

Harry Cohn employed Capra at Columbia, and he soon became one of Cohn's most trusted directors.

On set, Capra was gentle, considerate and unpretentious. But he would fiercely defend his films against the interference of studio bosses.
He was guided always by his patriotism, his belief in basic human nature and the value of hard work.

"My films must let every man, woman, and child know that God loves them, that I love them, and that peace and salvation will become a reality only when they all learn to love each other."

Nowadays, patriotic film-makers are usually pro-gun, pro-capitalist Republicans, and liberal film-makers make films exposing everything that is wrong with their country.

But Capra managed to be the ultimate patriot while also often expressing 'socialist' ideas. In 'It's a Wonderful Life', James Stewart stands up against the evil capitalist, and runs his savings and loan company for the betterment of the poor.

Nowadays, Capra's films might be seen as idealistic and even naive.
But I strongly believe that Capra's films made the world a better place.
And that is not a bad thing for a director to achieve.

'It Happened One Night' brings together Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in a romantic comedy.
The expectations for the film were not high. Colbert hated the script, and after wrapping the film, said "I just finished the worst picture in the world."
Capra was worried that it would flop badly.

Yet the film went on to be the most successful film to date for Columbia, and became the first film to win all five major Academy Awards - a record that stood for 41 years.

Paul Spurrier