Frank Capra

Columbia Pictures celebrated the success of its first big feature, THE BLOOD SHIP, in 1927. The critics loved it and the box office sang. With their first hit and a new torch-lady logo, the studio was filled with hope for a bright future. Then fate fulfilled that hope. Columbia Pictures hired Frank Capra – a moment in history that changed them both forever.
Frank Capra was born in Sicily on May 18, 1897. At the age of six, his father loaded the family onto a ship bound for Ellis Island where they boarded a train for Los Angeles to build a better life. Los Angeles would provide Frank with new experiences, an education, and introduce him to the new art form of motion pictures.
He first worked in the motion picture industry for small studios that produced cheap two-reelers. The experience provided him with the opportunity to do everything from building sets to grip work, film editing, gag writing and directing. Although it was insignificant work for very little pay, it was gratifying enough for him to set his sights on a career in filmmaking.
He continued to work for small studios and learned by doing every production task. In 1921, he was given a budget of $1,700 for his first film titled FULTA FISHER'S BOARDING HOUSE. This one-reel silent film was only twelve minutes long, but he wrote, cast, edited, and directed it. That experience led to an opportunity to work for Hal Roach Studios as a gag writer for the OUR GANG series and then as a gag writer for Mack Sennett Studios. Capra’s film training at this point was varied but unfocused. He now was developing his true talent for creating visual humor.
The year 1927 proved to be an important one for Columbia Pictures and Frank Capra. Harry Cohn offered Capra $1,000 to direct a single film, THE CERTAIN THING, which he accepted on the condition that he would write and produce it as well.
THE CERTAIN THING was made on a budget of less than $20,000. To save money on location, the production crew ate the props, which were box lunches. The 69-minute silent film was a hit. Harry Cohn liked the film enough to give Capra a $1,500 bonus and offered him two more pictures at $2,500 each.

Young Frank Capra

Harry Cohn and Frank Capra collaborate in Cohn's office