Frank Capra’s Timeless Vision of American Exceptionalism (Will Sellers, December 2, 2023, AIER)

The strain of populism so ingrained in the lives of Americans is perfectly reflected in Capra’s films. His focus was on the human actions of the silent majority of quiet, everyday people making decisions based on visions of simple moral clarity. He lifted the permanent things so often neglected compared to the temporary glitz and glamour of material gain. Each film contains a large dose of middle-American values magnified time and again against the traps and situations of a complicated impregnable bureaucratic world. And in each case, the little guy wins, and the big mules not only lose face but are publicly shamed into accepting, if not participating in their own defeat.

These films are in many ways a large mirror reflecting not only the tenor of the times but also the implicit impact of human nature struggling for freedom and self-determination. In short, people can see themselves in these films and identify with the characters. Everyone wants to see the characteristics of the white-hatted hero in themselves, but are reminded by conscience that they possess some of the traits of the villain too. Everyone hopes they will make wise and prudent choices when faced with decisions of moral consequence. Everyone in Capra’s films has a shot at redemption, but not every character accepts the offer; the developing conflicts that are resolved in favor of the common man are what make each film so entertaining.