Friday, December 21, 2007

Frank Capra Jr. and Jack Linkletter Pass On

I was meaning to make a Yule themed post today, but it seems that two more famous people have passed on. Both were the sons of more famous fathers and both followed their father's footsteps in the same industries.

Movie producer Frank Capra Jr. was the son of the famous director Frank Capra, perhaps best known for the Yuletide classic It's a Wonderful Life. He died Wednesday at the age of 73 from prostate cancer.

Although the son of a famous filmmaker, Frank Capra Jr. did not plan to be a movie producer. He attended the California Institute of Technology and graduated from Pomona College with a degree in geology. Despite this, he soon found himself in the business of film making. At Hughes Tool Company, he made films which documented the various research programmes conducted by the company. Capra later joined the United States Army and served in the Signals Corps.

Capra's first experience with commercial media would be working on such TV shows as The Rifleman, Wanted Dead or Alive, and Dennis the Menace. He was a second unit director on the movie Pocketful of Miracles. Unlike his father, Capra's mark in movies would be made as a producer rather than a director. He earned his first producer credit as an associate producer on the sci-fi film Marooned in 1969. Beginning with Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Capra produced the last few sequels to Planet of the Apes. He would go onto produce such films as The Black Marble, Firestarter, and Waterproof. Capra was president of EUE/Screen Gems, the biggest studio in the United States outside of Hollywood.

Although not nearly as famous as his father, Frank Capra Jr. did contribute to the medium of film through producing such movies as the Planet of the Apes films and The Black Marble. His company, EUE/Screen Gems, has been involved in movies such as 28 Days and TV shows such as One Tree Hill.

Like Frank Capra Jr., Jack Linkletter was the son of a famous man. In his case, he was the son of legendary TV host Art Linkletter. He died Tuesday at the age of 70 from lymphoma.

Although Jack Linkletter would host many shows in his lifetime, his biggest impact on pop culture came when he was still a child. When he was five years old and in kindergarten, his father decided to interview him. Armed with a tape recorder, Art Linkletter asked young Jack how he liked school. Jack's response was that he did not like school, "Because I can’t read and I can’t write and they won’t let me talk." Art Linkletter's impromptu interview with his son inspired routine "Kids Say the Darnedest Things," long a segment on the show House Party and at various points a show of its own.

Jack Linkletter followed in his father's footsteps while still a teenager. When he was only 15 he was host of an interview show on CBS Radio and later the host of Teen Time on the same network. Linkletter was only twenty one years old and attending the University of Southern California when he became the host of Haggis Baggis, a summer replacement game show on NBC in 1958. At only 22 he was host of the daytime show On the Go. In 1962 he became the host of Here's Hollywood, a celebrity interview show. Jack Linkletter's most famous gigs would both be in the Sixties. In 1963 he was the host of Hootenanny ABC's attempt to cash in on the folk music craze that would be ended by the British Invasion. From 1964 to 1966 he was the host of the Miss Universe broadcasts. He would later serve as a co-host on House Party with his father in the late Sixties. In the Seventies he was the host of the daytime series America Alive. Jack Linkletter also served as the president of Linkletter Enterprises, the family's real estate development.

Jack Linkletter often joked that he was often hired when his employers could not afford his father. In truth, however, I always thought that Jack Linkletter was a genial and talented host in his own right. He could make even the most unwatchable show bearable to watch (a case in point being America Alive. While he was never as famous as his father, Jack Linkletter was certainly a good host in his own right.

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