At the forefront of Film but forever forlorn,
Of formidable secrets, full disclosure forborne.
In his Columbia fortress, he foraged for fame
His finesse to inform and his fears to inflame.
His foreskin foregone, so his fortune foretold
Though he forefended disfavor, was forced out of the fold.
So no more Forbiddens, just formula fraud
And forsaking his friendships, he forged a façade.
Foregrounded in fiction, fortified by the flag,
His memoirs foreclosed on his license to brag:
Former glory to forfeit, former friends to foray
Even foreign forefathers forced into the fray.
And as Longfellow Deeds might forebodingly say,
“Ol’ fork-tongued Frank: Phony for a Day”
I bet you fiendish readers of mine assumed that in this months-long break from Bravado I was whittling away my precious time on frivolous pursuits like videogames or online dating…. Well nay, dear readers, nay! Unbeknownst to you rascals, I have been in monastic study of ‘Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success,’ Joseph McBride’s definitive biography of the man who brought out the best in Barbara Stanwyck, the worst in Cary Grant, and the dipshit dopiest in Gary Cooper! The Name Above the Title himself.
It’s essential reading for cinephiles. Firstly because most cinephiles haven’t risen above the “I’m too cool for this Capracorn bullshit” stage and discovered the buried treasures of Ladies of Leisure, Platinum Blonde, and American Madness. Secondly because it is a case study of retrospective auteurism gone wildly off the rails. Here’s a guy who sprinkled his memoirs with just enough self-deprecation to sell his artistic purity and independence as a bill of goods to blinkered ‘film historians’ willing to forego all methodological rigor and inquiry to lap it up. And when film historians and first-generation auteurists are gathered around the same contaminated well, you just know that the record is blemished forever. All so that face-saving Frank could reclaim some tiny fragment of his long-eroded glory before departing this life hand-in-hand with the little man of his dreams (who, let’s be honest, probably looked a lot more like Harry Cohn than Henry Travers).
McBride pretty much has to contort the extant wisdom on Capra into a lot of unrecognizable bio-historical origami to return some semblance of balance to the lunatic lore that pervades just about everyone’s understanding of the man, fans and detractors alike. On top of all this, there’s just so much damn information, not just about Capra’s childhood but about the political climate that shaped him and all but destroyed him as his career fell deeper and deeper into a tepidity wrought by paralytic paranoia.
It’s just a compelling story. I implore you to read it. And if not, then phooey! I have more content in the damn pipeline for you to maybe engage with. Shitheads!