Published in ’92, Joe McBride‘s “Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success” revealed that the respected, Oscar-winning director of audience-friendly films about the “common man” during the ’30s and ’40s (It Happened One Night, You Can’t Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It’s a Wonderful Life) wasn’t exactly a champion of liberal and proletarian sentiments behind the scenes.
“Spurning his ethnic roots, ashamed of his parents, Capra lusted to be accepted by mainstream America. He was affiliated with conservative Republicans, spied on labor in the 1930s for powerful producers and collaborated surreptitiously with the McCarthyite witch hunt,” according to the Amazon summary.
“McBride presents a man seething with bitterness, rage, self-doubt and sexual anxiety with his two wives. He analyzes Capra’s reactionary idealization of small-town America and the misogynist undertones of his films. In a canvas crowded with stars like Claudette Colbert, Jimmy Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper, McBride convincingly paints a great director who lost his touch after the late 1940s, unable to adjust to postwar Hollywood or to function independently.”
McBride now has a second Capra book coming out — “Frankly: Unmasking Frank Capra” (Vervante, 3.22). It tells the saga of what a bitch it was to research and publish “The Catastrophe of Success.”
Excerpt: “While McBride was researching and writing for more than seven years, he was fighting a pitched legal battle with his original publisher and allies of the celebrated film director. ‘Frankly: Unmasking Frank Capra’ is McBride’s revealing, harrowing, often darkly comical account of that Kafkaesque but ultimately successful struggle.”
HE question for readership: Who in today’s realm is a similar Capra-esque figure? Which artists or celebrities project a certain persona on talk shows and in press-junket interviews, but when you learn a thing or two about their private lives are not that person, or at least are not believed to be so? The private George Clooney and Tom Hanks are pretty much exactly the guys they seem to be (to go by their projected personas), but there are others who are not quite the person they’re pretending to be.