LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Each year, the black and white movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” eases us into the holiday season. Its director, Frank Capra, also created celluloid magic with movies like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “It Happened One Night,” and “You Can’t Take it With You.” His family has shared their recently un-earthed Capra treasures, written by the Hollywood legend himself.
Tom Capra, son of legendary film director, watches his dad’s holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” every year.
When the six-time Academy Award winner wasn’t directing iconic movies, he and wife, Lou, would escape the Hollywood grind to go fishing in California’s High Sierra at their cabin purchased in 1948 on majestic Silver Lake.
“It’s surrounded by humongous mountain and they just go straight up and there’s snow on the top. It’s just a gorgeous place,” Tom Capra said.
Tom Capra recalled in 1966, at the end of his dad’s career, when Frank Capra was typing away in the cabin’s master bedroom.
“I mean, just shut the door and we’d hear the typewriter going for like four hours. Then he’d go fishing,” he said.
When Frank Capra passed away in 1991, keepsakes like his Oscar statues were divided amongst his children, along with a box that went around the world with Tom and his wife, Kris, until they opened it in 2012.
“I was opening this box and I had this shredder next to me. I said, ‘What is this?” and he said ‘Something my dad wrote.’ I started reading out loud and I said, ‘Well, I think I better keep this one,” Tom Capra said.
What they uncovered were two Frank Capra manuscripts that Hollywood had never set eyes on.
“They’re both so different. That’s the novel and this other one is pretty much a true story,” Tom Capra said.
“Cry wilderness” is a “little guy versus the establishment” novel that takes place in the Capras’s real-life cabin community, about 25 miles from Mammoth.
Frank Capra charmingly wrote himself into the story in the first-person as the Hollywood producer-narrator.
The writing and characters are quintessentially Capra-esque.
“And you have compassion for them. Oh, God, I wish I could tell you but I don’t want to ruin the book for people give it away,” Kris Capra said.
The second manuscript, “Night Voices,” is Frank Capra’s personal “Wonderful Life” when he felt Hollywood turned on him at the end of his career.
“He believes he spoke to the devil one night when he was sitting up at the lake house drinking too much. And that the devil tried to convince him to write movies without values,” Kris Capra said.
But Capra stuck with values, something moviegoers still crave decades later.
Frank Capra’s true-life story, “Night Voices,” is still a manuscript and is being considered for a film. The Capras think actor Paul Giamatti would play a great Frank Capra, but they say that’s just their opinion.
“Cry Wilderness” is on bookshelves now. The introduction is written by actor-director Ron Howard, who says the novel is genuine, intriguing and wonderfully Capra-esque.