Ron Howard: 5 films that inspired me as a filmmaker

Mr. Smith goes to Washington

Realized by: Frank Capra | Written by: Sidney Buchman

I had read Frank Capra’s autobiography, The name above the title, which galvanized my passion to overcome all obstacles and become a filmmaker. I was probably 17 when I read this book, and I was making short films and telling anyone who would listen that I wanted to be a director. But, as I finished this book, I not only started studying Capra, but I really threw down the gauntlet and said, “I don’t hope to be a director. By God, I will become a filmmaker.

I watched a lot of Frank Capra movies. This was before the videotape, so you had to set your alarm clock and get up at 3 a.m. to watch the movie, which I did. And the one that just knocked me out was Mr. Smith goes to Washington. It is this mixture of values ​​that I really appreciated and understood. It was funny. It was comforting. But underneath, it really packed a punch. He was cautious and critical of politics in his theatrical way.

I recognized that there were so many different ways a feature film could actually entertain and capture. For the most part, the films I had been exposed to were broad and funny, with a moral to the story, but soft. Not much darkness, not much edge. And here’s this other thing that was so muscular and political, and yet, really compelling to watch, and entertaining, and also made me laugh. It struck me and inspired me.

A few years later, I discovered that one of the cameramen of Happy Days — that salty old veteran named Sam Rosen — had been the cameraman in the filibuster scene. They had three cameras that day because Jimmy Stewart couldn’t do that many takes, and Capra wanted it all covered knowing that Jimmy Stewart would blow his voice out doing that. Sam described how that scene unfolded. I loved it before, but I went back and saw it again and it remains one of the great scenes in movie history.

About Debra D. Johnson

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