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Frank Capra's American Dream (1997)

PG | | Documentary, Biography, History | TV Movie
Ron Howard hosts a biography of the life and career of filmmaker Frank Capra, including interviews with the director's friends, colleagues and admirers.


Kenneth Bowser


Kenneth Bowser
Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Ron Howard ... Self - Host and Narrator
Robert Altman ... Self - Interviewee: Director
Jeanine Basinger Jeanine Basinger ... Self - Interviewee: Curator, Capra Archives, Weslayan University
Edward Bernds Edward Bernds ... Self - Interviewee: Sound Technician / Director
Frank Capra Jr. Frank Capra Jr. ... Self - Interviewee: Producer (archive footage)
Tom Capra Tom Capra ... Self - Interviewee: Producer
Allen Daviau ... Self - Interviewee
André De Toth ... Self - Interviewee: Director (as Andre De Toth)
Richard Dreyfuss ... Self - Interviewee
Bill Duke ... Self - Interviewee: Director
Peter Falk ... Self - Interviewee: Actor
Amy Heckerling ... Self - Interviewee: Writer / Director
Marshall Herskovitz ... Self - Interviewee: Director
Arthur Hiller ... Self - Interviewee: Director
Michael Keaton ... Self - Interviewee


The life and career of legendary, three-time Oscar winner Frank Capra is explored in this acclaimed documentary through clips from his films, interviews with friends, family, and co-workers, and revealing archival film including footage of Capra himself. The director started as a poor Italian immigrant and through ambition, hard work, and talent singlehandedly put Poverty Row Columbia Studios on the map with classics like "American Madness," "Lost Horizon," and "Meet John Doe," as well as Oscar winners "It Happened One Night," "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," and "You Can't Take It with You,'' culminating with his masterpiece, "It's a Wonderful Life." Capra's professional and personal philosophy of "One man, one film predated the auteur theory by decades. Capra's wartime service and educational TV experience are detailed along with his two last features, "A Hole in the Head" and "Pocketful of Miracles," made after the collapse of the studio system resulting in the director's premature ... Written by duke1029@aol.com

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for brief war footage and mild language

Did You Know?


This documentary is featured on Columbia TriStar's 1998 DVD for The Matinee Idol (1928), both Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's 2006 Frank Capra Premiere Collection DVD set and 2014 Blu-ray for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), as well as The Criterion Collection's 2014 DVD & Blu-ray releases for It Happened One Night (1934). See more »


John Cassavetes prologue: Maybe there really wasn't an America. Maybe it was only Frank Capra.
See more »


Features You Can't Take It with You (1938) See more »

User Reviews

Great Look at Capra's Dream
5 August 2018 | by Michael_ElliottSee all my reviews

Frank Capra's American Dream (1997)

**** (out of 4)

Ron Howard hosts this wonderful documentary that covers the life and career of three-time Oscar-winner Frank Capra. The documentary features interviews with two of his sons as well as various famous faces including Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Robert Altman, Andre De Toth, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael Keaton, Amy Heckerling, Arthur Hiller, Angela Lansbury, Garry Marshall, John Milius, Richard Schickel,Edward Zwick and even some who worked with Capra including Jane Wyatt and Fay Wray.

If you're a fan of Capra then you'll certainly enjoy this detailed documentary that does a very good job at talking about the director's early life and how he ended up in Hollywood. From here we basically get a look at all of the films he made and a discussion of their box office success or failures as well as their impact on Capra himself. We get a more detailed look at the bigger titles including IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, MEET JOHN DOE and of course IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

The documentary does an extremely good job at going over the highs and lows of Capra's career as well as his own personal life, although the main focus always remains on the films. Fans of the director will get a lot of great stories told about the films and those new to Capra will get to learn about what made him so special.

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Also Known As:

Frank Capra e o Sonho Americano See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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