Frank Capra is one of the greatest directors of the 20th century. He originally went to college and got a degree in chemistry, and then by accident ended up getting a job doing a small film for a couple of guys because he needed the money. There was what we would now call a recession during the early 1920s and he had trouble finding work.
From this Capra ended up doing more film work, his chemistry degree long forgotten. Consider this: Capra had absolutely no training or education in film work, and he made some of the greatest films in cinema history.
His first major Hollywood experience was with Hal Roach in the mid 20s writing scripts for Our Gang, then from 1928 to 1939 he worked under Columbia Pictures making some of their most successful pictures. When he was drafted in World War II, he produced the Why We Fight set of seven propaganda films for the War Department, to explain what the war meant. (Using the term 'propaganda' in its classic sense, as in public relations material created by and for a government; what he says in the films about the Nazis and the Nationalist Japanese, that they want to take over the world and make everyone else into slaves, is correct. Much of the material was in fact translations of their own propaganda pieces.)
Films he directed include:
- The Strong Man (starring Harry Langdon, a Chaplin rival during the 20s)
- The Power Of The Press
- It Happened One Night
- Lady for a Day / Pocketful of Miracles
- Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
- Lost Horizon
- You Can't Take It With You
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (arguably his greatest work, and among the first movies inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry)
- Meet John Doe
- Arsenic and Old Lace
- It's a Wonderful Life
- A Hole In The Head