Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Political heavyweights decide that Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an obscure scoutmaster in a small town, would be the perfect dupe to fill a vacant U.S. Senate chair. Surely this naive bumpkin can be easily controlled by the senior senator (Claude Rains) from his state, a respectable and corrupted career politician. Director Frank Capra fills the movie with Smith's wide-eyed wonder at the glories of Washington, all of which ring false for his cynical secretary (Jean Arthur), who doesn't believe for a minute this rube could be for real. But he is. Capra was repeating the formula of a previous film, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, but this one is even sharper; Stewart and Arthur are brilliant, and the former cowboy star Harry Carey lends a warm presence to the role of the vice president. Bright, funny, and beautifully paced, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is Capra's ode to the power of innocence--an idea so potent that present-day audiences may find themselves wishing for a new Mr. Smith in Congress. The 1939 Congress was none too thrilled about the film's depiction of their august body, denouncing it as a caricature; but even today, Capra's jibes about vested interests and political machines look as accurate as ever. --Robert Horton
It Happened One Night Director Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) took home every Oscar in the book (well, okay, all the major ones) for this seminal 1934 comedy starring Clark Gable as a hard-bitten reporter who stays close to a runaway heiress (Claudette Colbert) rather than lose a good story. Funny and sexy, the film is full of memorable scenes often referred to in other films, such as the "walls of Jericho" (a mere bedcover hung on a line down the middle of a room so opposite-sex roommates can get undressed), and Colbert's famous flash of thigh to stop a speeding car in its tracks. Capra's brisk, urbane brand of wit was a perfect complement to his populist faith in the common man (in this case, Gable's character), and that inspired combination makes this film both a spirited entertainment and an uplifting experience. --Tom Keogh
You Can't Take It With You
Frank Capra's 1938 populist spin on the George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart play about a family of happy eccentrics is a great deal of fun, though it significantly rewrites the original work and doesn't represent Capra (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) at his best. Jean Arthur plays a member of the blissful Vanderhof household who falls in love with a rich man's son (James Stewart) and brings him into her nutty home. Lionel Barrymore, who played such a bad guy eight years later in Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, is the wonderful Grandpa Vanderhof, who addresses God during the dinner prayer as "sir" and speaks plainly and beautifully of why it's good to be alive. Capra took this opportunity to rail against big business and champion the common man, but the overall tone of the film--typical for the director's comedies--is buoyant and snappy. --Tom Keogh
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is Frank Capra's classic screwball comedy about a village innocent who inherits $20 million, only to discover it's more trouble than it's worth. The screwball in question is Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a small-town greeting-card poet and tuba player transplanted to the big city to administer his newly inherited wealth, where fast-pattering, wised-up cynics, sneering society denizens, and corrupt lawyers lord it over the ingenuous and straightforward. Deeds's idiosyncrasies are amply magnified in the tabloids by journalist "Babe" Bennett (Jean Arthur), dating Deeds as a cover, only to discover she's the sap when she falls irresistibly for him. But the damage has been done, when Babe's column is used by a pack of corrupt lawyers, Cedar, Cedar, Cedar & Budington, to prove Deeds mentally unfit. The miracle of this unforgettable comedy is how it embraces dark material, calling into question some common assumptions about capitalism while maintaining an approachable atmosphere of light comedy, and deceptively so. You'll be so pixilated by its charm, you won't rest until you've doodled your way to a rhyme for "Budington." --Jim Gay
More Stills from The Premiere Frank Capra Collection (click for larger image)
Designated the "Number One Director in Hollywood" by Time Magazine in 1938 and voted by Entertainment Weekly (April 19th issue, 1996) as one of the greatest directors of all time, Capra has received numerous industry awards and accolades over the course of his successful career including three Best Director Oscars®.
The Premiere Frank Capra Collection is a 6-disc collectible box set featuring five of Frank Capras best films. The digitally re-mastered set includes Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, You Cant Take it With You, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, It Happened One Night and American Madness. The DVD box set includes a bonus disc packed with all-new interviews, archival footage, plus Frank Capras American Dream documentary hosted by Ron Howard and produced by Capras eldest son, Frank Capra, Jr. (An Eye for an Eye, Marooned). This Premiere Collection also features commentaries for each film, along with a 96- page collectible Movie Scrapbook.