Director's son established North Carolina film biz

Frank Capra Jr., the producer son of director Frank Capra who helped establish the film business in North Carolina, died Dec. 19 of prostate cancer in Philadelphia. He was 73.  

Capra Jr. was an assistant director on his father’s 1961 Bette Davis film “Pocketful of Miracles.” He was a producer of three “Planet of the Apes” sequels and produced and directed several early television series, including “Gunsmoke” and “Dennis the Menace.” He was associate producer on Woody Allen’s “Play It Again, Sam.” In addition, he served as president of Avco-Embassy Pictures in the 1970s.

Capra Jr. traveled to North Carolina in the early ’80s looking for a house to burn for the film “Firestarter” for exec producer Dino De Laurentiis. The next year De Laurentiis decided to build a film studio in Wilmington.

Capra Jr. returned as president of the studio, renamed EUE/Screen Gems, when it was bought in 1997 by the Cooney family, and was instrumental in helping Wilmington become one of the largest film production centers east of California.

“With his Hollywood pedigree and extensive experience as a producer, Frank was the perfect ambassador to Hollywood,” said Chris Cooney, chief operating officer of EUE/Screen Gems.

Films including “28 Days” and “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” shot at the studio, as well as TV series “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill.”

Capra Jr. also served as a visiting professor of film studies at the U. of North Carolina at Wilmington.

One of director Frank Capra’s three children, he studied at Caltech and graduated from Pomona College. He served in the Army Signal Corps, teaching soldiers combat motion picture photography.

He is survived by his wife, Debra; a daughter, Christina; two sons, Frank Capra III and Jonathan Capra, both assistant directors; and a granddaughter. 

Donations may be made to the Frank Capra, Jr. Film Studies Scholarship Fund, c/o Marla Rice Evans at the U. of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 South College St., Wilmington, NC 28403.

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