Is This Still Frank Capra's America?

His theme of common-man decency vs. phoniness has a contemporary ring

On a cold night just after New Year's, I watched one of Frank Capra's movies--not a bad way to keep warm, if you choose the right Capra. I wanted to tune in on an old American wavelength. A Capra resonance, an atmosphere, seemed to have returned off and on during the fall. It suggested some earlier American self-image, a kind of innocence arising from vulnerability and loss: post-traumatic sweetness. (The trauma in Capra's case, of course, was the stock-market crash and the Great Depression.) Had we renewed our citizenship, for a little while, in Frank Capra's America?

Capra's movies are the...

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