Communication and Culture | Authorship in the Media (Topic: The Films of Frank Capra)
C326 | 29758 | Doty, A.

TuTh, 4:00 PM-5:15 PM, Location: TBA
Required film screening: W, 7:15 PM-10:15 PM, LH 102

Fulfills College A&H Requirement

Instructor: Alex Doty
Office: C2 246
Phone: 856-4928

Frank Capra was one of the most celebrated American directors of the
1930s, winning three Oscars for the box office hits It Happened One
Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and You Can’t Take It with You. His
work with stars like Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert,
Barbara Stanwyck, James Stewart, and Jean Arthur made them stars—or
even bigger stars.  There was even a popular term for Capra’s
filmmaking: “Capracorn.”  Yet today he is known largely for two
films he made with James Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and
It’s a Wonderful Life.  In an attempt to replace Capra within the
ranks of important directors, this course examines his career within
the context of the American studio system, as well as within the
socio-cultural contexts of the Great Depression, World War II, and
the immediate post-war era.  During these periods, and within the
constraints of commercial filmmaking, Capra was one of the rare
American directors who consistently revealed a social
consciousness.  His films critically examine such subjects as
prostitution (Ladies of Leisure), interracial relationships (The
Bitter Tea of General Yen), evangelism (The Miracle Woman), the
banking system (American Madness), philanthropy (Mr. Deeds Goes to
Town), and government corruption (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington).
Some have called Barak Obama’s rise to the presidency “a real Capra
story.” Among other things, this course will help you to understand
what this might mean.  During the semester, students will attend
weekly screenings outside of class sessions.  These films will be
paired with readings from Capra’s autobiography as well as with
material that engages with individual films—and with the director’s
career as a whole—from a number of contemporary critical
perspectives like auteurism, feminism, Marxism-materialism and
gay/lesbian/queer approaches.  Assignments include two short essays,
two exams, and a final long essay.