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Frank Capra. Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Capra, one of Hollywood's legendary producers and directors. Capra was born in Palermo, Italy, in 1897, and came to the U.S. with his family when he was six years old. Lucky for him, and for us, that the Capras settled in Los Angeles. His first important job in Hollywood was as a writer for the Mack Sennett studios. Capra later joined Columbia Pictures, where he gained his greatest success as a director of sophisticated comedies that had appealing characters, social overtones, and happy endings. Capra was the first to win Oscars from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences for directorial efforts on three pictures: It Happened One Night (1934), a hugely popular romantic comedy starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, a social commentary on poverty in America, starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyk and Walter Brennan at his very best (1936), and You Can't Take It with You, a tale about what makes us really happy: it isn't fame or fortune, but family (1938). Capra won a best screenplay Oscar for his contribution to the Hollywood's greatest year, 1939, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, about an idealistic young senator from a small town who suddenly finds himself in a single-handed battle against politicians who are out to destroy him. In his own opinion, Capra's best picture was It's a Wonderful Life, done in 1946, about the life and times of George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), a Job-like middle-American family man, whose guardian angel stops him from committing suicide and shows him what the world would be like if he'd never lived. This tear-jerking classic epitomizes Capra's greatness: his movies not only moved us emotionally, they could even change our lives. At the least, they helped make a whole generation of us geezers who we are -- generous, hopeful men and women "for others." A relatively new book tells us about another Capra. Another Frank Capra, by Leland Poague, offers a new interpretation of Capra beyond the patriotic sentimentalist. A blurb on the Home Page On-Line Catalog of the Cambridge University Press puts it this way: "Often cast as a cinematic simpleton or primitive, Capra's exploitation of the stylistic and narrative resources of cinema was, in fact, extremely self-conscious and adventurous in ways typical of artistic modernism. His modernism is also evident in his repeated and strong identification with female characters." The same blurb says that Capra was a "proto-feminist" director -- that is, that he was a feminist before anyone started talking about, or writing about feminism. What does this mean? Simply that Capra was the kind of complete human being who recognized that women comprise one-half of the human race, and that men who try to put them down or put them "in their place" are shooting themselves in the foot.
MODEL: Capra's optimism. He had to be a sunny character, who looked on the bright side of things. His movies tell us that. He tells us that in his autobiography, The Name Above the Title, published in 1971 and reprinted in 1985. ***
Your Birthday Today:
A liberal traditionalist. What does that mean? If you were born on May 18, you are comfortable with established ways, but feel they can be improved, not overthrown. Many May 18 people are protesters, speaking out against injustice and tyranny in their world. When it comes to changing these things, however, you prefer a straightforward, traditional approach. Ruled by the number 9 and the planet Mars, you can have a great influence on others.
Open-minded realist. You don't mind coming across new ways to do things, but often opt for practical means just to get things done quickly without hassle. Unfortunately, your outspoken nature creates snags, since you can't keep your mouth shut when ignorance and prejudice rears its ugly head. You are the pillar of logic, presenting concise, reasonable arguments in a chaotic world.
All together now. On first impressions, you come across as a balanced, whole person. You seem to have it all together, especially where emotions are concerned. If your youth is filled with problems and confusion (as most are), you strive set things right, gain some composure, before you present your personality to the adult world. Underneath your composed exterior, however, you may be slipping out of touch with your own desires.
Heed this advice: Beware that you don't become so fanatical in your cause that you become as irrational as those you denounce. You may find it difficult to accept, but it can happen. Be tolerant of others, even if you find their logic or ideas lacking. Take a break occasionally to recharge and get to know yourself.
Also born on this day: Pierre Balmain (French designer) Toyah Wilcox (British rock musician) Meredith Wilson (show singer) Warren Rudman (senator, New Hampshire) Richard Brooks (director) Bertrand Russell (philosopher, mathematician, atheist, pacifist) John Paul II (current pope) Perry Como (singer, TV host) Frank Capra (director, producer) George Straight (country-western singer, songwriter) Don Lind (astronaut, NASA commander).