Four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hollywood film director Frank Capra enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Fresh off of the success of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the 44-year-old Capra was at a career peak and ten years past the military draft age limit. But as an Italian immigrant who found tremendous success in the United States, Capra was determined to prove his patriotism.
“I had a guilty conscience,” he later said. “In my films I championed the cause of the gentle, the poor, the downtrodden. Yet I had begun to live like the Aga Khan.”
He was promptly promoted to major and began reporting directly to Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, who asked Capra to create documentary films explaining to American why the U.S. was compelled to combat the Axis powers.
The result was the “Why We Fight” series, in which Capra used footage from Nazi Germany’s own propaganda films to illustrate the threat posed to Europe, America, and the world.
On Sunday, the Bridgeville Historical Society welcomed Gary Augustine who discussed Capra’s story and the many other ways that World War II has impacted Hollywood filmmaking from the 1940s through today.
Next month, on Tuesday, March 27, the historical society hosts a presentation about Donora, Pa.’s “Cement City”– a collection cement-based homes based on a concept once championed by Thomas Edison.