Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Capra-Corn


lydecker
 Share

Recommended Posts

So, in honor of Frank Capra's birthday, which of his films do you think most merits the

appellation:  "Capra-Corn?"  

 

I know if was based on a famous play but it still gets my Capra-Corn vote:

"You Can't Take It With You." 

 

Lydecker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, in honor of Frank Capra's birthday, which of his films do you think most merits the

appellation:  "Capra-Corn?"  

 

I know if was based on a famous play but it still gets my Capra-Corn vote:

"You Can't Take It With You." 

 

Lydecker

 

Good question, waldo. I think I'd have to agree, You Can't Take it With You is pretty darn corny.

 

Still, I kind of enjoy it. In fact, while I agree 100% that old Frank Capra made "corny" movies, I'd also have to say that I like them. Can't decide whether that's in spite of or because of the corn element.

 

By the way, here are some definitions of "corny" ( a slang term, by the way, that is little used anymore, and is in  fact nowadays considered "corny" itself.):

 

"Something banal or mawkishly sentimental"

 

"trite; banal"

 

"uncool,old-fashioned"

 

"Not original; used too often to be interesting or to sound sincere"

 

Capra's films may be all of the above, but to me, they're always entertaining, never boring - a huge plus when it comes to movies. And they're fun; they feel kind of innocent, even if that innocence is "contrived" (it probably is, but it does not feel that way when I watch them).

I almost always like the actors in them.

And - forgive the sentimentality here - they just make me feel good.

 

Yes, I've been outed - I like Frank Capra movies.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Capra treated his character actors like stars when they had their scenes in his films.

 

Watch James Gleason in the "lighthouses" scene in Meet John Doe when he is warning Doe (Gary Cooper) of the fascist agenda of D. B. Norton (Edward Arnold). Cooper takes a back seat in a scene designed as a showcase for a slightly inebriated Gleason, constantly trying to light a cigarette throughout it.

 

It's a joy to watch Gleason, a great character actor, have this moment, and, for that thank Frank Capra, who seemed to love all his actors, not just his stars.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good question, waldo. I think I'd have to agree, You Can't Take it With You is pretty darn corny.

 

Still, I kind of enjoy it. In fact, while I agree 100% that old Frank Capra made "corny" movies, I'd also have to say that I like them. Can't decide whether that's in spite of or because of the corn element.

 

By the way, here are some definitions of "corny" ( a slang term, by the way, that is little used anymore, and is fact nowadays considered "corny" itself.):

 

"Something banal or mawkishly sentimental"

 

"trite; banal"

 

"uncool,old-fashioned"

 

"Not original; used too often to be interesting or to sound sincere"

 

Capra's films may be all of the above, but to me, they're always entertaining, never boring - a huge plus when it come to movies. And they're fun; they feel kind of innocent, even if that innocence is "contrived" (it probably is, but it does not feel that way when I watch them).

I almost always like that actors in them.

And - forgive the sentimentality here - they just make me feel good.

 

Yes, I've been outed - I like Frank Capra movies.

So do I. I think LADY FOR A DAY started the "Capra-Corn" ball rolling. Most of his films from then on can be classified as such, with the exception of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE and STATE OF THE UNION, and possibly IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT..

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Although I enjoy this movie very much, Arsenic and Old Lace always seemed a bit corny.. well, over acted a bit at any rate. I suppose this comes from it's stage origin. Whatever makes it feel like a play was transferred to the film version - as I see it, anyway.

 

Cary Grant's overly expressive behavior as he discovers the body in the chest.. He's playing that to the camera as he would to his (stage play) audience.

 

But now that I think about it, You Can't Take it With You has more corn.

More "characters" per square foot.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Although I enjoy this movie very much, Arsenic and Old Lace always seemed a bit corny.. well, over acted a bit at any rate. I suppose this comes from it's stage origin. Whatever makes it feel like a play was transferred to the film version - as I see it, anyway.
 
Cary Grant's overly expressive behavior as he discovers the body in the chest.. He's playing that to the camera as he would to his (stage play) audience.
 
But now that I think about it, You Can't Take it With You has more corn.
More "characters" per square foot.

 

 

AAOL is more campy than corny as it relates to the plot and how I define Capra-corn  (which I view as being overly idealistic plot ideas and twist instead of just having 'out-there' type characters).  

 

e.g. You Can't Take it With You is corny because it has the rich guy giving up his plans and changing his ways because he rediscovers the fun of playing a harmonica (Ok that isn't the only reason,  but it illustrates how idealistic the ending is which to me is the essence of Capra-corn).  

 

We see this in Mr. Deeds where Cooper wishes to give all of his money away and his plans to help farmers (but Cooper does explain his desire in such a way that it doesn't look so idealistic \ crazy).

 

In John Doe the John Doe clubs are pure Capra-corn.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, in honor of Frank Capra's birthday, which of his films do you think most merits the

appellation:  "Capra-Corn?"  

 

I know if was based on a famous play but it still gets my Capra-Corn vote:

"You Can't Take It With You." 

 

Lydecker

I didn't much like his remake of Lady For a Day (1933).  Pocketful of Miracles (1961) gets my vote.  It seemed very old fashioned for the 1960's.  So does that count as the most corn?  

I didn't believe Glenn Ford in the Dude part for one minute and what a poor substitute for Warren William.  Seeing Peter Falk almost makes it worthwhile.

And why bother remaking your own material when there is so much else you can do.

I know Hitch did it too.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Capra treated his character actors like stars when they had their scenes in his films.

 

Watch James Gleason in the "lighthouses" scene in Meet John Doe when he is warning Doe (Gary Cooper) of the fascist agenda of D. B. Norton (Edward Arnold). Cooper takes a back seat in a scene designed as a showcase for a slightly inebriated Gleason, constantly trying to light a cigarette throughout it.

 

It's a joy to watch Gleason, a great character actor, have this moment, and, for that thank Frank Capra, who seemed to love all his actors, not just his stars.

I marveled once again, at what a terrific character actor James Gleason is while watching him in Meet John Doe today.  Gleason completely steals the scene from Gary Cooper.  And, clearly Capra knew what he had since he gave Gleason the "last word" in the film!

 

Lydecker

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I marveled once again, at what a terrific character actor James Gleason is while watching him in Meet John Doe today.  Gleason completely steals the scene from Gary Cooper.  And, clearly Capra knew what he had since he gave Gleason the "last word" in the film!

 

Lydecker

It's Gleason's scene. He doesn't really steal it from Cooper since Coop sits back to let Jimmy shine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, in honor of Frank Capra's birthday, which of his films do you think most merits the

appellation:  "Capra-Corn?"  

 

I know if was based on a famous play but it still gets my Capra-Corn vote:

"You Can't Take It With You." 

 

Lydecker

 

It might be easier to name the ones that wouldn't qualify than the ones that would, which from today's lineup would pretty much include only Arsenic and Old Lace.       You Can't Take It With You, Mr. Smith, Mr. Deeds, and Meet John Doe are all so far up the cornball scale you'd have to measure their distance from the Earth in light years. 

 

Not that a few of his schmaltzfests don't work in spite of it, most famously It's a Wonderful Life, and to a lesser extent the original version of  Lady For a Day.  But mostly his movies are just an overdose of sap and syrup, with plots so phony and contrived that they're embarrassing.

 

And yes, I know this is just an opinion, and like bungholes, everybody's got one.  But sentiment should be applied sparingly, and not ladled out like slop in an army barracks.  :)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Capra films provided some remarkable opportunities for major stars to shine as performers. Gable, Colbert, Cooper, Colman, Stewart and Jean Arthur, none of their careers are discussed without reference to their work in Capra films as being among the highlights.

 

And that's no matter how much corn may be in the material.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I marveled once again, at what a terrific character actor James Gleason is while watching him in Meet John Doe today.

 

If you ever get the chance to view all the extra film footage from NIGHT OF THE HUNTER Criterion release....do so.

 

You will see the original actor used for the old fisherman scenes. Then compare it to Gleason reading the same lines.

Amazing.

You whole heartedly believe Gleason's acting even though you know it's an actor reading lines.

And the other guy just comes across blandly-an actor reading lines.

 

I go for Capra corn just as much as pop corn. I love his storytelling.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Only an extraordinarily courageous actor, one confident of his abilities, would have the nerve to play the role of Mortimer Brewster in the broad manner in which Cary Grant did in Arsenic. His double takes (was there even a triple take thrown in there?) and pop eyed expressions and grunting are a source of pure comedy joy to me.

 

Grant, in his early years, at least, before he placed a greater emphasis on being suave and sophisticated, was a great physical comedy actor. You saw that in Bringing Up Baby and Gunga Din and see it again in Arsenic and Old Lace, among other earlier efforts. That's why these performances rank among my very favourites of Grant's long career.

 

f41ac9f4-05ae-4edf-bf9c-c239cbb0486b_zps

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Couldn't agree with you more Tom :) I love Cary Grant's performance in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. It's interesting that Grant thought his performance was a little over the top. Not so. Brilliant comedic performance and I don't find the film corney at all. It's a riot.

 

You should add Barbara Stanwyck to your list of performers that made films with Capra early on in their career.

 

As far as IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE goes, not at all corny, as someone else posted. It's a beautiful film and outstanding performances by the whole cast. Seen the film so many times lost count, and have always marveled at James Stewart's incredible performance. Not a corny film, a Great film

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ho!  Ho!

 

I've mentioned old bit actor Bill Kennedy hosting a Detroit area movie show on TV back in the late '50's, through the '60's, and a couple of years into the '70's before.

 

But, I ALSO seem to recall him referring to Frank Capra movies in that way.  "CAPRA CORN"!  He said he loved Capra's movies, but admitted they can, from time to time, get a little on the corny side.  Which, he added, WAS a large part of their charm!

 

 

Sepiatone

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm one who finds the original coining of the term "Capra-corn" a misnomer.  Capra's films are anything but corny.  The comedy always has an edge and an energy that is the antithesis of corn.  And the emotion in his dramatic moments is genuine, never forced.

 

Today, however, our snarky society treats any display of emotion or morale conflict as corny.  Fortunately, I'm old enough to have avoided the snark attack.  I love Capra's pictures and I only wish there were more filmmakers today with his ideals and the talent to express them in a decidedly UN-CORNY fashion.

 

Just my humble opinion.  And yeah, Gleason was brilliant in MEET JOHN DOE.

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've always thought that there's often a commonality between a Capra film and a Wilder film, in so much as I've always felt both directors often picked material and were very capable in presenting movies with themes depicting a knowingly and well observed cynical view of mankind, and yet often beautifully and entertainingly leavened with just the right touch of levity.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

As far as IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE goes, not at all corny, as someone else posted. It's a beautiful film and outstanding performances by the whole cast. Seen the film so many times lost count, and have always marveled at James Stewart's incredible performance. Not a corny film, a Great film

Thanks, lav. Since you mentioned the beauty of Jimmy Stewart's performance in It's a Wonderful Life, I hope you don't mind if I re-post a comment about that same performance which I wrote in another thread yesterday:

 

There's a scene in It's a Wonderful Life in which George Bailey (James Stewart) sits at a bar. He has been beaten down by a series of personal and financial calamities and is at the bottom of his rope. There is a close up of Stewart, his hands trembling as he brings them to his face, tears welling in his eyes, his voice trembling and in a half whisper, as he starts to speak to God. He conveys a desperation that is palpable.

 

It's a scene with which many viewers can identity, for Bailey is a man in the lowest valley of his life, a valley from which he fears there may be no return. 

 

I can never watch this scene of painful vulnerability without being deeply moved by Jimmy Stewart's performance. In its own quiet way, I think it is one of the most powerful moments of acting I've ever seen.

 

james-stewart-in-its-a-wonderful-life-19

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not at all Tom, and so glad you re-posted your post about that particular scene. I unfortunately didn't see your post yesterday. The scene you've mentioned is the first scene that always come to my mind when I think of the film. Such an incredible, Oscar worthy performance by Stewart. Always gets me, so Real, and heart wrenching without being contrived or manipulating the audience.One of his very finest performances, if not the finest imo.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe some 30 years ago or so now, I remember Dustin Hoffman walking out to the podium during the televised American Film Institute Award presented to Jimmy Stewart, and in which Hoffman stated something to the effect of: "I've never seen better acting done by anyone and in any movie than when Mr. Stewart played George Bailey, and when I first saw it, it inspired me to be an actor."

 

(...I've looked for a video of this many times on YouTube, but have never been able to find it...always thought Dustin nailed it that night)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not at all Tom, and so glad you re-posted your post about that particular scene. I unfortunately didn't see your post yesterday. The scene you've mentioned is the first scene that always come to my mind when I think of the film. Such an incredible, Oscar worthy performance by Stewart. Always gets me, so Real, and heart wrenching without being contrived or manipulating the audience.One of his very finest performances, if not the finest imo.

Thanks, lav. I think the growth of the post-war Jimmy Stewart as an actor is extremely apparent with this film. I think there's a depth to this performance that we had never seen in him before (which is to take nothing away from his great acting as Mr. Smith). These two films show the remarkable chemistry that this actor had with Frank Capra, arguably more so than with any other director in his career. (Which is to take nothing away from his wonderful efforts with Hitchcock or Anthony Mann).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Capra films provided some remarkable opportunities for major stars to shine as performers. Gable, Colbert, Cooper, Colman, Stewart and Jean Arthur, none of their careers are discussed without reference to their work in Capra films as being among the highlights.

 

And that's no matter how much corn may be in the material.

 

I also have a different take than Andy;   while I can see the corniness in his films generally the films are balanced;  i.e.  they push the envelope but don't go overboard (or pull back at the right time).     One exception would be You Can't Take it with You -  This being my least favorite of the movies he made with Arthur (being more of an ensemble movie Jean doesn't have much to do and Stewart displays too much of that pre-WWII wimpy, clueless persona).    But there are some very funny moments from the various characters in the film. 

 

Meet John Doe;   Love the first 3\4 of this film but the end is somewhat of a drag and I find it to be over the top.   Capra himself had filmed various endings.    While I think the right choice was made to NOT kill off 'John',   the end could have been handled with a lighter touch (but given what was going on in Europe one could say the film fits the mood of the times).

 

Mr. Deeds and Mr. Smith;   These are great films and I feel Capra 'pulls back' just in the nick of time;  e.g. Deeds not defending himself during his sanity proceeding is annoying but his solid comeback makes up for it.   We see something very similar in Mr. Smith.

 

Arsenic and Old Lace:   This is a very funny film,  but I don't view it as being a traditional Capra movie since it doesn't push any political themes.    Grant as well as all the others (except Lane) are way over the top BUT that is what makes it great.   The lines are clearly played for a laugh (e.g. the dialog between Lorre and Massey is a riot especially when one considers the subject matter).  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Only an extraordinarily courageous actor, one confident of his abilities, would have the nerve to play the role of Mortimer Brewster in the broad manner in which Cary Grant did in Arsenic. His double takes (was there even a triple take thrown in there?) and pop eyed expressions and grunting are a source of pure comedy joy to me.

 

 

My favourite moment in Arsenic and Old Lace belonged to Peter Lorre as Dr. Einstein.  He is trying to escape out the front door when he thinks he has been nabbed by the police.  But then he hasn't and when he realizes this he lets out that famous nervous Peter Lorre laugh and disappears.  

I don't know if I would have been able to keep from laughing myself if I had been on that set.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My favourite moment in Arsenic and Old Lace belonged to Peter Lorre as Dr. Einstein.  He is trying to escape out the front door when he thinks he has been nabbed by the police.  But then he hasn't and when he realizes this he lets out that famous nervous Peter Lorre laugh and disappears.  

I don't know if I would have been able to keep from laughing myself if I had been on that set.

 

Yes, that is high camp at it's best.    But come on,   the name of the character tells one where this movie is willing to go!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

© 2022 Turner Classic Movies Inc. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...