John Ford and Frank Capra: A Study of Their Movies


"A great man and a great American, Frank Capra is an inspiration to those who
believe in the American dream" John Ford

"The megaphone has been to John Ford what the chisel was to
Michelangelo.....Ford Cannot be pinned down or analyzed. He is pure Ford--Which
means pure great" Frank Capra

Frank Capra and John Ford have directed many classic movies and it is
unfair to only view two of their works and summarize all there is too say about
their styles, so I won\'t. Instead, I will be discussing different styles and
conventions that Frank Capra and John Ford used in the four movies I viewed.
These movies are Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Mr Deeds goes to Town both
Capra, films and The Informer and Grapes of Wrath by Ford.
America in the 30\'s was a time of hardship economically, politically and
socially. If you have taken an American history course you know all about the
depression and the crisis that it bestowed upon the land. Hollywood, the movie
making capital of the world tried its best not to reflect the problems of the
country in its products. Instead of the grim realities of world, Hollywood lured
in the audience with escapist movies. The classic thirties genres like screwball
comedies, glamourous musicals and fantasy movies, were mere ploys to divert the
sad reality of the time and in doing so Hollywood firmly defined its role as
entertainer not critic. Capra and Ford can also be accused of following this
pattern too, with other movies they made. The 30\'s were also a time of the great
studio system and one had to work under the control of these institutions,
although both directors managed to achieve enough fame and power that they could
create their own visions. With this power and fame, Capra and Ford were able to
turn out movies that went against the usual Hollywood style; critical of society,
authority, government, newspapers, the police and political rebels. These men
where able to make movies about the injustice in the world and they created
simple folk yet(much like Forrest Gump in Capra\'s case) complex enough to deal
and in some cases win against the evils of the world. Although they deal with
similar topics and understands about society and man, they have different ways
of delivering their message. Capra used humor, fantasy, splendor, and a quick
moving camera. Ford on the other hand used gritty realism, harsh environments,
and a static camera, with slower cuts and movements. They both can be considered
anti-establishment directors, but I would say that their movies go beyond simple
anti-establishment attitudes and actually try to and establish a new more
righteous establishment. Ford and Capra believed so much in America that during
her time of great crisis in WWII, they left Hollywood and all the money to work
for the U.S. Forces. Ford became an Admiral in the U.S. Navy and Capra a
Colonel for the Army.
Of the four movies by Capra and Ford, The Informer is the only one that
was not a box-office smash at its time of release, however all four movies carry
the prestigious titles of being called some of the greatest films of all time.
All these films can be enjoyed on a simplistic entertainment level, but there is
so much hidden between the texts that makes them great, therefore they were
obviously made for more than just enjoyment.
There are strong issues being dealt with about man and his relationship
within the society he lives in. From the most basic problems about individuals
suffering from lack of shelter and starvation to mass starvation and political
corruption. There also seem to be the tone in Capra\'s and Ford\'s movies that man
was doing fine until society interfered with him, not just society in general
but more city society. There is a feeling that city people are corrupt and
infect all that they touch, while the simple country folk are pure and good.
This point is proven over and over again, it is not the individual that is
corrupt it is the society that corrupts the individual. Deeds and Smith both
from there respective self titled movies are happy and fine living quiet
sheltered lives in their small town. As soon as city society comes knocking on
their door trouble begins. Whereas when we meet Fonda in Grapes of Wrath,
society has already beaten him down and now he must rise again or perish. Gypo
too in The Informer has been defeated by society and he too must rise