Atlantis Alumni

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life:" The Ultimate Antidote To Reifenstahl

In the current (March 17) issue of The New Yorker, there is a book review of a new work entitled "Five Came Back: A Story Of Hollywood and the Second World War," written by Mark Harris. The book focuses on five Hollywood directors, and the roles they played making war propaganda films. In the review, writer David Denby recounts how Hollywood director Frank Capra was shocked when he saw Leni Riefenstahl's 1934 film, "Triumph of the Will," an ode to the Nazis. Capra felt that the film was a powerful pro-Nazi morale weapon. Capra and the other directors...John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, and William Wyler were assigned to make propaganda films for our side films with the aim of inspiring us to fight and win. But in his review, Denby notes that Capra made the ultimate antidote to the Riefenstahl film after the war ended:
"It's A Wonderful Life" (1946) was nominated for five Oscars but was a box office flop-a failure from which Capra never really recovered professionally. In the end, however, the film became a double triumph for him. It grew to become one of the most beloved of American movies, as, as such, it provided his final answer to the Riefenstahl film that had troubled him so many years earlier...its vision of a democratic community, seen now, seems like something Americans would have gone to war for.

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