John Ford and Frank Capra: a Study of Their Movies

Topics: Academy Award for Best Picture, The Grapes of Wrath, Frank Capra Pages: 7 (2738 words) Published: October 8, 1999
John Ford and Frank Capra: A Study of Their Movies

"A great man and a great American, Frank Capra is an inspiration to those who believe in the American dream" John Ford

"The megaphone has been to John Ford what the chisel was to
Michelangelo.....Ford Cannot be pinned down or analyzed. He is pure Ford--Which means pure great" Frank Capra

Frank Capra and John Ford have directed many classic movies and it is unfair to only view two of their works and summarize all there is too say about their styles, so I won't. Instead, I will be discussing different styles and conventions that Frank Capra and John Ford used in the four movies I viewed. These movies are Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Mr Deeds goes to Town both Capra, films and The Informer and Grapes of Wrath by Ford.

America in the 30's was a time of hardship economically, politically and socially. If you have taken an American history course you know all about the depression and the crisis that it bestowed upon the land. Hollywood, the movie making capital of the world tried its best not to reflect the problems of the country in its products. Instead of the grim realities of world, Hollywood lured in the audience with escapist movies. The classic thirties genres like screwball comedies, glamourous musicals and fantasy movies, were mere ploys to divert the sad reality of the time and in doing so Hollywood firmly defined its role as entertainer not critic. Capra and Ford can also be accused of following this pattern too, with other movies they made. The 30's were also a time of the great studio system and one had to work under the control of these institutions, although both directors managed to achieve enough fame and power that they could create their own visions. With this power and fame, Capra and Ford were able to turn out movies that went against the usual Hollywood style; critical of society, authority, government, newspapers, the police and political rebels. These men where able to make movies about the injustice in the world and they created simple folk yet(much like Forrest Gump in Capra's case) complex enough to deal and in some cases win against the evils of the world. Although they deal with similar topics and understands about society and man, they have different ways of delivering their message. Capra used humor, fantasy, splendor, and a quick moving camera. Ford on the other hand used gritty realism, harsh environments, and a static camera, with slower cuts and movements. They both can be considered anti-establishment directors, but I would say that their movies go beyond simple anti-establishment attitudes and actually try to and establish a new more righteous establishment. Ford and Capra believed so much in America that during her time of great crisis in WWII, they left Hollywood and all the money to work for the U.S. Forces. Ford became an Admiral in the U.S. Navy and Capra a Colonel for the Army.

Of the four movies by Capra and Ford, The Informer is the only one that was not a box-office smash at its time of release, however all four movies carry the prestigious titles of being called some of the greatest films of all time. All these films can be enjoyed on a simplistic entertainment level, but there is so much hidden between the texts that makes them great, therefore they were obviously made for more than just enjoyment.

There are strong issues being dealt with about man and his relationship within the society he lives in. From the most basic problems about individuals suffering from lack of shelter and starvation to mass starvation and political corruption. There also seem to be the tone in Capra's and Ford's movies that man was doing fine until society interfered with him, not just society in general but more city society. There is a feeling that city people are corrupt and infect all that they touch, while the simple country folk are pure and good. This point is proven over and over again, it is not the individual that...
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