Review: ‘Pocketful of Miracles’

The scenario, which alternates uneasily between wit and sentiment, is based on the 1933 Lady for a Day, which was adapted by Robert Riskin from a Damon Runyon story, and also directed by Frank Capra. It has to do with an impoverished apple-vender (Bette Davis) who would have her long lost daughter (Ann-Margret) believe that she is a lady of means. This is simple enough when the daughter is on the other side of the globe, but when she comes trotting over for a look-see, mama is in trouble.

The scenario, which alternates uneasily between wit and sentiment, is based on the 1933 Lady for a Day, which was adapted by Robert Riskin from a Damon Runyon story, and also directed by Frank Capra. It has to do with an impoverished apple-vender (Bette Davis) who would have her long lost daughter (Ann-Margret) believe that she is a lady of means. This is simple enough when the daughter is on the other side of the globe, but when she comes trotting over for a look-see, mama is in trouble.

Enter mama’s favorite apple-polisher, influential Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford), who hastily sets up an elaborate masquerade with the aid of a horde of typical 1930s Runyon-esquehoodlums who are hard as nails on the surface, but all whipped cream on the inside.

The picture seems too long, considering that there’s never any doubt as to the outcome, and it’s also too lethargic, but there are sporadic compensations of line and situation that reward the patience. Fortunately Capra has assembled some of Hollywood’s outstanding character players for the chore.

For the romantic leads, he has Ford and Hope Lange. As a comedy team, they are no James Stewart-Jean Arthur (probably Capra’s most formidable star-pairing), but they get by – particularly Ford. Lange is more suitable for serious roles. Davis has the meaty role of ‘Apple Annie’ and, except for a tendency to overemote in closeups, she handles it with depth and finesse.

The best lines in the picture go to Peter Falk, who just about walks off with the film when he’s on.

1961: Nomination: Best Supp. Actor (Peter Falk), Color Costume Design, Song (‘Pocketful of Miracles’)

Pocketful of Miracles

Production

Franton. Director Frank Capra; Producer Frank Capra; Screenplay Hal Kanter, Harry Tugend; Camera Robert Bronner; Editor Frank P. Keller; Music Walter Scharf; Art Director Hal Pereira, Roland Anderson

Crew

(Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1961. Running time: 136 MIN.

With

Glenn Ford Bette Davis Hope Lange Arthur O'Connell Peter Falk Edward Everett Horton
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