Capra is one of six prominent American directors whose use of Catholic symbolism and imagery Fr. Blake explores in his new book AfterImage. Sub-titled The Indelible Catholic Imagination of Six American Filmmakers, the book also examines the films of Martin Scorsese, John Ford, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock...From: William Park. "The Fifty Best Catholic Movies of All Time", Crisis 15, no. 10 (March 1997): 82-91 (URL: http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Crisis/1997-11/f8.html).
Fr. Blake selected the six not only for their stature in film history but because they represent different kinds of Catholics, from Scorsese and De Palma's contrasting experiences as Italian-Americans to Ford's upbringing in a Maine Irish-Catholic setting, as well as the English-born Hitchcock's eventual metamorphosis as an American Catholic.
"For all these differences, their films show an unmistakable and identifiable spiritual kinship," Fr. Blake said. "Almost without exception, they display a Catholic sense of sin, guilt, atonement and redemption. Their most virtuous heroes struggle with grace as members of a communion of sinners. They seek redemption within a community rather than as individuals, and often salvation is mediated by a loving, self-sacrificing savior."
...Fr. Blake... devotes a chapter to each filmmaker, offering a brief biographical sketch with particular attention to the director's Catholic background.
...Ford's work is characterized by Fr. Blake as a "Journey to an Everlasting Kingdom," as seen in films like "Stagecoach," where the main characters endure an ordeal of purification and, at the end, are free to seek a promised land together. While it is unlikely Ford intended the film as a religious allegory, Fr. Blake says, his notions of community, salvation, conscience and life as a journey to a homeland in the hereafter reflect a Catholic imagination.
It is interesting to note that the three best directors who ever worked in Hollywood, Frank Capra, John Ford, and Alfred Hitchcock, were all practicing Catholics. So much for the detrimental effects in these times of the Church upon art.From: Richard A. Blake, S.J. (a Jesuit), "Finding God at the Movies ... And why Catholic churches produce Catholic Filmmakers", website: Woodstock Theological Center (http://www.georgetown.edu/centers/woodstock/report/r-fea79a.htm):
To an astounding extent that I had never suspected until I started to look into the matter, the movies are really a Catholic medium... Catholics have been... over-represented in the creative side. Think of some of the key filmmakers that even casual film audiences know by name: Hitchcock, John Ford, Frank Capra, Scorsese and Coppola...
From an early age, Catholics learn to tame the mysteries of life and death with the hardware of the material universe. By dealing with the here-and-now rather than fleeing it, Catholic filmmakers allow their characters to seek a form of redemption in their day-to-day struggles... John Ford sets his greatest films on the American frontier, where survival depends on dedication to the family, the wagon train, or the regiment. All their characters seek personal integrity and redemption in the midst of a community. Their struggles are rarely couched in spiritual terms, but they are invariably religious quests with milestones along the way marked by Catholic images. The Catholic imagination is more than catholic, more than sacramental - it is profligate. It sees the workings of grace everywhere.