Monday, December 15, 2008

Pocketful of Miracles (1961)

This is Frank Capra's last film. As with any movie with this most terrific director, it is a little hokey, a little corny, a lotta syurpy and a definite pleaser of the feel-good fans. And you know what? I loved it - I love a wonderful feel good movie as long as it has the acting performances to back it up and oh, boy, does this one have the needed talent.

Bette Davis as Apple Annie

Apple Annie (Bette Davis) is a panhandling, alcoholic who sells apples on the streets of New York City. Early in the film we learn that Annie has a daughter, Louise (Ann-Margaret), that was born out of wedlock and raised in Spain so that she could have a better life than what Annie could have given her in NYC. They have never met, only conversing through letters, and Annie has embellished her life quite a bit over the years. The trouble comes when Louise writes to tell her she is engaged to the son of a Spanish Count and plans to visit her mother in NYC very soon. Annie is afraid her daughter's life will be ruined once her future in-laws discover her true identity so she manages to secure the creativity and resourcefulness of a powerful bootlegger, Dave The Dude (Glenn Ford). With his help and those of his various associates, they manage to turn Annie into the New York socialite her daughter is expecting to see.

Let me start off saying I loved Bette Davis in this role. I loved everything about her performance. For starters, she doesn't go loud and over-the-top with this, she reins her performance in appropriately. She even was careful with her voice, making it sound slightly frail and raspy - which is perfect for Apple Annie. I like how she is tough on the street, but when she is begging at the fancy pants hotel for her daughter's letter, she is so vulnerable and humble. And when she is drunk and explaining the predicament about her daughter's visit to Queenie and Dave the Dude, the feeling of hopelessness is so palpable - my heart was breaking for her. Just, an amazing performance by Ms. Davis all around.

I also have to say how much I really enjoyed Peter Falk in this. He was fabulous as Dave the Dude's right hand man, Joy Boy, and handy with the zingers. When he walks into the room after the row between Queenie and Dave the Dude, "Look at this place, like the inside of a goat's stomach!" He seriously stole quite a few scenes in this film when Glenn Ford wasn't looking.

I wouldn't have thought Glenn Ford would have handled this kind of role with the twinge of comedy, but I thought he did fine. As did Hope Lange as Queenie. I can't say either stood out as amazing, but I thought they handle the roles well.

I was thrilled to see Edward Everett Horton as Hutchins, the Butler, in this. I swear, that man has the best comedic timing and is a sheer genius. I do adore that man and he had some great lines too. I especially loved the reception scene when the Count asks when they guests are supposed to arrive. He says, "Oh, well, no one arrives first, sir, they all come in last." He just has such a perfect way of delivering lines that sound flat when you read them, but when HE says them, they are riotous.

Also, I enjoyed Thomas Mitchell's performance of Judge Henry G. Blake. I love an exchange between him and Apple Annie as they are preparing for the reception and she asks about the menagerie of fake socialites that Dave the Dude is sending over.

Judge: "Orchids bloom where weeds once grew."
Annie: "What if they make mistakes?"
Judge: "The Dude will kill them."
Annie: "Aww, the poor dears."

My final favorite quote comes from Junior, one of Dave the Dude's cronies. When he sees Apple Annie, all dressed up as the socialite for the first time he says, "It is like a cockroach turned into a butterfly." Niiiiiiice. :-)

I do have a question for those of you who are much more knowledgeable than myself. I read that this is a remake of "Lady For A Day", which I have not seen. I was curious as to which one you prefer and why?

Also, did anyone else notice the Nutcracker music playing softly in various scenes throughout the movie? There were also a couple of Christmas trees here and there. I didn't plan on watching a "holiday" film, but I guess this is another holiday, non-holiday-ish film. You can't escape! :-)

I highly recommend watching this one. It is a great one for when you need one of those pick-me-up feel-good movies after a rough day. It is such a sweet film and I wouldn't mind watching it again, myself, just to see Bette in this first-rate performance.

1 comment:

kda0121 said...

Pocketful of Miracles isn't a bad movie, but Frank Capra's remake of his own 1933 Lady for a Day is a much better movie. According to Capra in his autobiography, this was a much troubled production. Glenn Ford and Bette Davis didn't get along, and Capra came down with excruciating "cluster" headaches, which forced him to go into his trailer between shots and take injections of pain-killers. Capra said the one bright spot of the production was Peter Falk, whom he found a joy to work with.

Additionally, this version ran 40 minutes longer than Capra's original, which means there's a lot of unnecessary filler. It is a well photographed movie, with the sentimental story being just right for Christmastime. This ended up being Frank Capra's last movie.