Great Directors of Classic Hollywood Cinema: Frank Capra

Course Leader(s)
Day of Week: Wednesday
Course Length: 6 weeks
Starting: 09/13/2023
Ending: 10/18/2023
Period of Day: Period 2 Zoom
Time: 11:30 - 1:00
Course Fee: $60

Course Description:

Acclaimed in 1938 by Time Magazine. as Hollywood’s greatest director, Frank Capra is today still held in high esteem by movie buffs, critics, and film scholars alike. In his career he won six Oscars for best film and/or production while his films have garnered dozens more for acting, screen play, set design, sound, and other elements of film. Seven of his films are on various AFI Top One Hundred lists and six of his films are in the U.S. National Film Registry. Like many of the early Hollywood greats he was a naturalized citizen, coming from Sicily when he was five years old. His films embrace the democratic ideals of belief in the common man and the power of the individual to make a difference in society. He had a great respect for human dignity, and like his fellow immigrant film makers he helped define the American Dream for early 20th and mid-century America. We will explore, among other themes, how the American ideals in Capra’s films have held up. Are his films more than Kaprakorn, as a more cynical post -Vietnam generation called them? Or do they still speak to us about the promise of America that continues to draw “the tired, the poor, the huddle masses” to this country? Final viewing list is TBD, but will definitely include It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It’s a Wonderful Life. Also, by popular demand, this semester’s course will be expanded to six instead of the usual five films.

Students will view films on their own and they will be discussed in class. Some relevant information about the director’s life and career and the production and historical context of the films will be presented in brief lectures. Most of the class is devoted to students’ reactions, interpretations, and questions and responses to the instructor’s viewing questions about the films.  Weekly preparation will depend on the length of the film being discussed. Some students have found it beneficial to view the film twice if time allows.

Please note that this is a six-week course, from September 13 to October 18, and will have the last meeting during the break week.

Books and Other Resources:

Students must obtain DVDs of films or stream them to watch before class.


Course Leader Bio(s)

Stan Hitron

I am a retired Professor of English and Humanities and former Chair of the English Department at Middlesex Community College in Bedford and Lowell, MA. I taught a three-credit course in film form and cultural analysis in the classroom and online for 25 years and a non-credit film course in Middlesex’s lifelong learning program for 20 years with a core of a dozen or so students, who after starting, enrolled in every subsequent semester.