Frank Capra Jr., 73, the son of the legendary Hollywood director, who rose through the ranks to become a movie producer and was a studio president for the last decade, has died.

Mr. Capra died Wednesday of prostate cancer at a hospital in Philadelphia, his son Jonathan said yesterday.

In a Hollywood career that began as a second assistant director on the TV series

Dennis the Menace

and

The Rifleman

, Mr. Capra became an associate producer on the movies

Play It Again, Sam

,

Marooned

and three

Planet of the Apes

outings.

He also produced

Billy Jack Goes to Washington

,

Born Again

and

An Eye for An Eye

.

From 1981 to 1982, he was president and chief executive officer of Avco Embassy Pictures.

Mr. Capra went to Wilmington, N.C., in 1983 to scout locations for

Firestarter

, a 1984 horror movie starring Drew Barrymore, for Dino De Laurentiis' company.

De Laurentiis was so taken with the North Carolina area that, after the movie was shot at Orton Plantation in nearby Winnabow, he began building a studio complex near the town's airport.

In 1996, when the George Cooney family bought what by then had become Carolco Studios in a bankruptcy auction, Mr. Capra returned to Wilmington to become president of the renamed EUE Screen Gems Studios.

He remained president of the studio, which boasts nine sound stages and is said to be the largest movie production center east of California, until his death.

Bill Vassar, the studio's executive vice president, said Mr. Capra "was our ambassador to Hollywood."

Mr. Capra, born in Los Angeles on March 20, 1934, was one of Lucille and Frank Capra's three children.

With a father who directed the movie classics

It Happened One Night

and "

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

, he could expect actors Clark Gable and James Stewart to drop by the house for dinner.

He was 12, however, before he got to see his father at work.

"My mother was very dead set against us visiting the sets," he told the Star-News of Wilmington in 2006. "She didn't want us to become studio brats."

But in July 1946, he and his brother and sister were driven to a studio ranch in the San Fernando Valley where their father was filming what became a Christmas classic:

It's a Wonderful Life

.

Spread out before them in the 90-degree heat was the town of Bedford Falls - 75 stores and buildings, and all covered with artificial snow.

"That," Mr. Capra recalled, "was when I realized my father could make magic."

Last December, Mr. Capra participated in what has been an annual tradition in Wilmington: a holiday screening of his family's 35-millimeter print of

It's a Wonderful Life

at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where he introduced the movie and shared his memories.

Besides his son Jonathan, he is survived by his wife, Deborah; another son, Frank III; a daughter, Christina; a granddaughter; a brother; and a sister.