The Premiere Frank Capra Collection
(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

As one of America’s most famous and acclaimed filmmakers, Frank Capra contributed many classics to cinema history, including the immortal It’s a Wonderful Life. Considered to be a sentimentalist, populist, and idealist, Capra was concerned with standing up for the little guy, and many of his films’ protagonists challenged class distinctions or governmental or business policies while upholding true American ideals.

The five films contained herein come from the Depression era and strongly showcase those themes. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington finds an unlikely Senate appointee (James Stewart) taking on corrupt colleagues. The poet protagonist (Gary Cooper) of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town chooses to give away a $20 million inheritance to the poor. Famed screwball comedy It Happened One Night teams a brash reporter and an heiress, while You Can’t Take It With You links a couple with quite disparate family backgrounds. The only entry here that didn’t win any Oscars, the lesser-known American Madness, from 1932, is a striking film about a bank whose owner (Walter Huston) refuses to sell out to a larger institution. But a robbery and innuendo about his losses inspire a run on his bank that tests his fortitude.

The extras are sweet too. This six-disc set includes the full-length documentary Frank Capra’s American Dream, which is hosted by Ron Howard. It also comes with a 96-page, full-color Movie Scrapbook, featuring stills from the films included. Nicely packaged and nicely priced, this is certainly a great introduction to one of America’s most beloved directors. — B.R.