Bette Davis, Peter Falk, Glenn Ford, Hope Lange, Thomas Mitchell, and Arthur O'Connell in Pocketful of Miracles (1961)


(director: Frank Capra; screenwriters: story by Robert Riskin/Jimmy Cannon/Hal Kanter/Harry Tugend/based on the story, “Madame La Gimp” by Damon Runyon; cinematographer: Robert J. Bronner; editor: ; music: Pyotr Tchaikovsky/Jimmy Van Heusen/Walter Scharf; cast: Glenn Ford (Dave the Dude), Bette Davis (Apple Annie), Hope Lange (Elizabeth “Queenie” Martin), Arthur O’Connell (Count Alfonso Romero), Peter Falk (Joy Boy), Thomas Mitchell (Judge Blake), Edward Everett Horton (Hutchgins), Mickey Shaughnessy (Junior), Sheldon Leonard (Steve Darcey), Ann-Margret (Louise), Barton MacLane (Police Commissioner), Peter Mann (Carlos Romero); Runtime: 136; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Frank Capra; United Artists; 1961)
“This commercial bomb turned out to be Capra’s swan song.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This was a Technicolor remake of the 1933 Lady for a Day, also directed by the legendary Frank Capra (“It Happened One Night”/”It’s a Wonderful Life”/”Rain Or Shine”). The 64-year-old Capra bought the rights for $200,000 from Columbia to make it. It’s adapted by Robert Riskin from a Damon Runyon short story called “Madame La Gimp.” This commercial bomb turned out to be Capra’s swan song, as he never made another pic though he lived to be 94. Capra explained why he retired: “Because I did it all. Now let the younger ones do it.” Hopelessly outdated and sentimental, plus overlong and tedious. Pocketful of Miracles is a rotten apple to bite into, unless you can’t get enough of such cornball feel-good pics.

The hokey plotline revolves around an impoverished NYC apple-vender nicknamed Apple Annie (Bette Davis), who is the leader of a group of lovable panhandlers on Broadway. Annie finds out her well-educated long lost daughter Louise (Ann-Margret, the 20-year-old’s film debut), who is living in Spain and does not know mum is a drunken derelict but believes that she is a society lady of means, is coming to NYC to wed the son of a Spanish count. With that news the panic-stricken Annie enlists the help of goodhearted bootlegger and racketeer, the influential Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford). He, with a host of typical colorful Damon Runyon Broadway types, sets up an elaborate masquerade to fool her aristocratic soon-to-be husband’s parents that she’s got class and money.

The boring heavy-handed misguided message film strays about as far from reality as you can get in a social drama and only proves that Capra’s mush doesn’t cut it anymore in his dubious efforts to manipulate an audience.