RALEIGH, N.C. – Frank Capra Jr., the son of "It's A Wonderful Life" director Frank Capra who followed his father into the movie business and help build the largest television and movie studio on the East Coast, has died. He was 73.
Capra Jr. died Wednesday night at a hospital in Philadelphia, said Bill Vassar, the executive vice president of Wilmington-based EUE/Screen Gems Studios, of which Capra was president. Vassar said Capra died following a long fight with prostate cancer, which had spread over the past several months.
"With his Hollywood pedigree and extensive experience as a producer, Frank was the perfect ambassador to Hollywood," Chris Cooney, chief operating officer of EUE Screen Gems LTD, said in a statement. "He will be missed as a friend and a colleague."
Under Capra's leadership, EUE/Screen Gems' credits include several major motion pictures, including "28 Days," "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," "Domestic Disturbance," "Black Knight" and "A Walk to Remember."
He also was at the helm when "Dawson's Creek" -- starring a then-unknown Katie Holmes -- filmed at the studios, and he kept all nine of the studio's sound stages full in recent years between movies and the filming of another successful teenage soap, "One Tree Hill."
"He brings a certain cachet to the studio that would not be there and wasn't there before he came," said Bill Arnold, the former director of the N.C. Film Office, said in an interview earlier this year. "When Frank came on, I think it assumed a larger profile just because of Frank's name."
Capra was one of three children of Frank Capra and Lucille Rayburn Warner Capra, who tried to protect her children from the Hollywood life. Still, he could tell stories about dinners with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, and said he was best friends with Gary Cooper's daughter Maria.
For the past several years, he screened his family's 35mm print of his father's 1946 Christmas favorite at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. In an interview in the summer of 2007, Capra Jr. said his father had no idea he was making the classic film, starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore.
"I don't think any filmmaker knows that," he said. "He loved the idea of the story. He fell in love with that idea of the story about a man who could see the world the way it would have been had he never been born."