Frank Capra was an Italian-American film director, producer and writer who became the creative force behind some of the major award-winning films of the 1930s and 1940s. Born in Italy and raised in Los Angeles from the age of five, his rags-to-riches story has led film historians such as Ian Freer to consider him the "American dream personified."
Capra became one of America's most influential directors during the 1930s, winning three Oscars as Best Director. Among his leading films was It Happened One Night (1934), which became the first film to win the "Big Five Academy Awards", including Best Picture. Other leading films in his prime included You Can't Take It With You (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). During World War II, Capra served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and produced propaganda films, such as the Why We Fight series.
After World War II Capra's career declined as his later films like It's a Wonderful Life (1946) were critically derided as being "simplistic" or "overly idealistic". In succeeding decades, however, his films have been favorably reassessed.
Outside of directing, Capra was active in the film industry, engaging in various political and social issues. He served as President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, worked alongside the Screenwriters Guild, and was head of the Directors Guild of America.