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Frank Capra: The Early Collection
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Frank Capra: The Early Collection on DVD

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, the Film Foundation and Turner Classic Movies present Frank Capra: The Early Collection, all fully restored and remastered. (Ladies OF Leisure, 1930) Kay, a cynical, streetwise party girl lands a job as a model for aspiring painter Jerry Strong, the son of a wealthy railroad magnate. When their work sessions eventually evolve into a serious romantic relationship, Jerry's status-conscious parents attempt to buy Kay off like a common prostitute. This movie marked Capra's first association with Barbara Stanwyck (they would make five movies together) and his first feature with screenwriter Jo Swerling, who would become a frequent collaborator. (Rain Or Shine, 1930) Smiley Johnson, the manager of the Greater John T. Rainey Circus, must constantly wheel and deal to keep his traveling carnival operational and true to it's promise of offering two shows a day. Complicating his mission is bad weather, internal saboteurs, poor business and pursuing creditors. Based on a hit 1928 Broadway musical, this rollicking comedy-drama omits the musical numbers, providing instead a rare screen showcase for vaudeville legend Joe Cook in the starring role. (The Miracle Woman, 1931) Sister Fallon, a young woman with a gift for religious oratory, gains fame through the efforts of an unsavory promoter who stages phony faith healings during her services. At first seduced by the money, she soon grows weary of the deception and tries to escape the racket, a situation that becomes a genuine trial by fire. Loosely inspired by the famous California evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and Sinclair Lewis's novel Elmer Gantry, (The Miracle Woman) was one of Capra's few boxoffice failures for Columbia Pictures but it remains a fascinating expose of religious charlatans and phony faith healers. (Forbidden, 1932) on an ocean voyage, Lulu, a thrill-seeking, small town librarian, enters into a carefree affair with Bob Grover, a lawyer with major political ambitions. Even though she learns that Grover has an invalid wife and will never leave her, Lulu continues to carry on their affair in private, despite the fact that she now has an illegitimate child to consider. When a newspaper editor threatens to expose the couple publicly, tragedy ensues. Capra's attempt to create a popular women's picture in the style of a Fannie Hurst soap opera like (Back Street) is made credible by the strong performances of Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou and Ralph Bellamy. (The Bitter Tea OF General Yen, 1933) Set in war-torn Shanghai, this visually stunning melodrama opens as Megan, the fiancée of a missionary, arrives in China for their marriage. But their plans are interrupted by civil war and Megan finds herself caught in a riot after visiting an orphanage. General Yen, a ruthless Chinese warlord, comes to her rescue and whisks her away to safety in his palace. Megan soon suspects she is not his guest but his prisoner yet she begins to feel a strange attraction to her captor. The once controversial topic of interracial romance between a Caucasian woman and a Chinese man earned this film some notoriety upon it's release but Capra considered it a strangely poetic romance which was a risky art film for it's era. An immigrant from Bisacquino, Sicily, Frank Capra is one of the great American success stories. After growing up in Los Angeles and serving in the First World War, he found his calling in the burgeoning film industry of the early twenties. Working at a variety of jobs from lab assistant to film cutter to gag writer, Capra was promoted to director by silent comedian Harry Langdon who scored several box-office hits with Capra at the helm. The films featured in this collection contain five key movies made after Capra struck out on his own in the early sound era and became Columbia Pictures' most important and financially successful director, transforming the company from a poverty row studio to a major player in Hollywood.