Frank Capra – The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)


The American missionary Megan Davis arrives in Shanghai during the Chinese Civil War to marry the missionary Dr. Robert Strife. However, Robert postpones their wedding to rescue some orphans in an orphanage in Chapei section that is burning in the middle of a battlefield. While returning to Shanghai with the children, they are separated in the crowd, Megan is hit in the head and knocked out, but is saved by General Yen and brought by train to his palace. As the days go by, the General’s mistress Mah-Li becomes close to Megan and when she is accused of betrayal for giving classified information to the enemies, Megan asks for her life. The cruel General Yen falls in love for the naive and pure Megan and accepts her request to spare the life of Mah-Li against the will of his financial advisor Jones. Meanwhile Megan feels attracted by the powerful and gentle General Yen, but resists to his flirtation. When Mah-Li betrays General Yen and destroys his empire, Megan realizes that to be able … Continue reading

Frank Capra – You Can’t Take It With You (1938)


From “filmschoolrejects”

You Can’t Take It with You is a classic case of good old-fashioned American optimism, a celebration of family and small-town values courtesy of Frank Capra, who made a distinguished career out of such things. By the time of its release in 1938 films like It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town had already made Capra a household name, a premiere chronicler of the Depression era national mood and a primary spokesman for cinema’s ability to serve as a tonic, spreading good cheer among audiences that had experienced too little of it.

That history looms over every frame of what is one of the original quirky family dramedies, a direct ancestor of the entire genre of independent filmmaking devoted to such ventures today. It instills even the more banal, dated moments with particular resonance. One can sense in Capra’s joyful indulgence of the sheer chaotic nature of the life of the Sycamore family a fervent quest to entertain by outdoing even the most outlandish antics displayed in the film’s contemporaries, which remain some of the most memorable screwball comedies ever made. Continue reading

Frank Capra – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)


Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is a 1936 American screwball comedy film directed by Frank Capra, starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in her first featured role. Based on the 1935 short story “Opera Hat” by Clarence Budington Kelland, which appeared in serial form in the Saturday Evening Post, the screenplay was written by Robert Riskin in his fifth collaboration with Frank Capra.
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Frank Capra – Lady for a Day (1933)

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Aple Annie is an indigent woman who has always written to her daughter in Spain that she is a member of New York’s high society. Now her daughter plans to return to America with her new fiance and his father, a member of Spain’s aristocracy. Annie must pretend to be wealthy or the count will not give his blessing. She gets the help of Dave the Dude, who considers Annie a good luck charm, to obtain a luxury apartment and entertain the visitors, but things don’t always go quite as planned… Continue reading

Frank Capra – Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)


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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) is producer/director Frank Capra’s classic comedy-drama, and considered by many to be his greatest achievement in film (and reminiscent of his earlier film, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936)). [In fact, the film project by Columbia was first announced as Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington starring Gary Cooper, in a role similar to his previous Longfellow Deeds character.]

James Stewart established himself as a leading actor with this film, the one he is perhaps most identified with – and it was the fifth film he made in 1939. He was again teamed with his co-star Jean Arthur (in the role of a cynical secretary) from the previous year’s Best Picture winner, Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You (1938). Stewart’s character represents the powerful forces of American freedom, democracy and morality over oppression and evil in his emotional portrait of a naive, idealist, patriotic young politician who, after being sent to Washington (a symbol of liberty and democracy) as a junior senator from an un-named state, matures in wisdom, fights political corruption within his state’s political machine, and guards American values as a moral hero. Continue reading

Frank Capra – It Happened One Night [+Extra] (1934)


It Happened One Night (1934) is one of the greatest romantic comedies in film history, and a film that has endured in popularity. It is considered one of the pioneering “screwball” romantic comedies of its time, setting the pattern for many years afterwards along with another contemporary film, The Thin Man (1934).
The escapist theme of the film, appropriate during the Depression Era, is the story of the unlikely romantic pairing of a mis-matched couple – a gruff and indifferent, recently-fired newspaper man (Gable) and a snobbish, superior-acting heiress (Colbert) – a runaway on the lam. It is a reversal of the Cinderella story (the heroine rejects her wealthy lifestyle), a modern tale with light-hearted sex appeal in which courtship and love triumph over class conflicts, socio-economic differences, and verbal battles of wit.
The madcap film from Columbia Studios (one of the lesser studios) was an unexpected runaway box office sleeper hit (especially after it began to play in small-town theaters), and it garnered the top five Academy Awards (unrivaled until 1975, forty-one years later by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) – and then again by The Silence of the Lambs (1991).) It won all five of its nominated categories: Best Picture, Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert), Best Director (Frank Capra), and Best Adaptation (Robert Riskin). — Tim Dirks, Continue reading