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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pocketful Of Miracles (1961)

In 1930s New York City, an old hag called Apple Annie (Bette Davis) peddles apples on Broadway. A minor gangster (Glenn Ford) believes her apples bring him luck so he won't make a move without one of her apples. But the old woman has a secret. She has a daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut) raised in a convent in Spain who thinks her mother is an elegant society matron. When the daughter announces she's coming from Spain with her fiance (Peter Mann) and his father (Arthur O'Connell), the gangster and his moll (Hope Lange) conspire to give the old girl a make over. Based on the short story by Damon Runyon, this is the second time that the director Frank Capra adapted the Runyon story for the movies. The first attempt came in 1933 under the title LADY FOR A DAY which received Oscar nominations for best film and best director. I'll be upfront that I'm no Capra fan and LADY FOR A DAY didn't do much for me and I've always preferred this 1961 remake. It's colorful, whisks along amiably and heartwarming without being too treacly. That being said, Davis is miscast as Apple Annie. One can almost sense her discomfort in the part. Ford and Lange do fine but it's in the supporting players that the film shines with a roster of familiar character actors from Thomas Mitchell down to Mike Mazurki. But the scene stealer is Peter Falk who parlayed his performance here into an Oscar nomination (the costumes and title song were also nominated). Also in the large cast: David Brian, Edward Everett Horton, Ellen Corby, Mickey Shaughnessy, Sheldon Leonard, Jerome Cowan, Jay Novello, Frank Ferguson and Gavin Gordon.

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