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The Name Above the Title


BigFaceSmallRazor
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I'm right in the middle of reading Frank Capra's autobiography & it's fascinating. How practically every actor in the world turned down the leads in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (He only got Gable because Louis B. Mayer forced him to play it. He only got Colbert because she owed him a favor since he cast her in her first movie which was a silent movie--and even then she said she'd do it only after naming a huge, exorbitant fee that she was certain Columbia wouldn't pay).

 

How Capra was almost run out on a rail after the premier of MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON in D.C. And it's also interesting cause Capra got his start with Mack Sennet (who's movies they're showing this month).

 

One thing that is a little surprising: how full of himself Capra seems to be--like he practically invented the talkies singlehanded. I guess all successful artists have a big ego.

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I'm re-reading it now. I got the book a year or two ago and couldn't put it down. You're right about the ego; but remember this was a driven man from the time he opened his eyes in this world. It wouldn't have mattered what field he went into, he would have succeeded and probably because of that massive confidence that he could do whatever he set his mind to. I love the anecdotes in it, but even more the stories of how he made his education pay off in his work.

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> {quote:title=Dothery wrote:}{quote}You're right about the ego; but remember this was a driven man from the time he opened his eyes in this world. It wouldn't have mattered what field he went into, he would have succeeded and probably because of that massive confidence that he could do whatever he set his mind to.

Yeah, you definitely get that impression, don't you? He was driven to succeed no matter what profession he chose. Anyone who loves old movies will love this book.

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I was very fortunate to get my copy of THE NAME ABOVE THE TITLE inscribed by Capra when he did a university tour upon its publication. He visited the University of Miami for two days. The first day he was to talk and show POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES; the second day he was to talk and show MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. At the first show, he apologized because they were unable to get a 16mm print of MR. SMITH to show at the school (Capra had a 35mm nitrate print which, of course, couldn't be used) and they would be running POCKETFUL both days. I was in the front row, raised my hand and told him that I had a print of MR. SMITH and he was welcome to run it. Capra was thrilled and invited me to sit with him while we watched POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES. All through the picture, he told me little stories about Peter Falk, Harry Wilson (a burly bit player), Edward Everett Horton, Thomas Mitchell, Gavin Gordon and others. He had very little to say about Glenn Ford. After reading the book, I realized why.

 

That was a screening I will NEVER forget!

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First bought and read this book waaaay back in the 70's when I was an impressionable youth and I loved it. To view the other side of the coin, so to speak { and if one is really interested in Capra } one should read Joseph McBride's The Catastrophe of Success, which came out in the early 90's. McBride is a well respected author and appears to have done his homework. Fascinating stuff.

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> {quote:title=RayFaiola wrote:}{quote}I was very fortunate to get my copy of THE NAME ABOVE THE TITLE inscribed by Capra when he did a university tour upon its publication. He visited the University of Miami for two days. The first day he was to talk and show POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES; the second day he was to talk and show MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.

Wow! What a great story, Ray! So did he borrow your copy of MR. SMITH?

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> {quote:title=cinemanut wrote:}{quote}First bought and read this book waaaay back in the 70's when I was an impressionable youth and I loved it. To view the other side of the coin, so to speak { and if one is really interested in Capra } one should read Joseph McBride's The Catastrophe of Success, which came out in the early 90's. McBride is a well respected author and appears to have done his homework. Fascinating stuff.

What does McBride's book say about Capra, Cinemanut?

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Well, it has been a while since I have read it { I did buy and read it when it first came out } but in a nutshell a few of tidbits: Capra somewhat re-wrote his history in his autobiography, the first 2 reels of Lost Horizon weren't burned, Robert Riskin had alot more input to the films he wrote for Capra than Capra credits him for, Capra was somewhat ashamed of his ethnicity, the speech that Tracy gives in State of the Union not only reflects Capra's backing out of political filmmaking, but pretty much out of filmmaking all together { Capra would make only 4 more features two of them being remakes }, that he and Stanwyck were in love and in 1931 during the making of Miracle Woman Capra wanted to marry her, that Capra was desperate to win an Oscar, that Capra made Bitter Tea of General Yen not only for it's Oscar-bait potential but that the story had deep emotional resonance in regards to his affair with Stanwyck { Capra had married his new wife Lu just the year before on the " rebound " }, that Capra wasn't a real friend of the " little guy " the man on the street, that he was obssesed with the accumlation of riches and had stumbled onto a formula that worked, but also that Capra was genuinely fond of actors and worked with them { stars and bit players } very well, etc. Many more things I was really surprised to read about. I haven't read Name Above The Title in an even longer time so I cannot remember if Capra addressed some of these issues or not. But my recollection is that most of them were not what I was expecting.

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