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Sunday, October 23, 2016

POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES (1961)

Three decades after Frank Capra hit the ‘A’ list (joined at the hip with writing partner Robert Riskin), adapting the wiseguy sentiment of Damon Runyon’s LADY FOR A DAY/’33, he left the arena for good with this thuddingly misconceived flop of a remake. The story is largely unchanged (elderly apple peddler, a lucky charm to raffish NYC mob man, needs his help to keep her engaged daughter from finding out she’s a tramp), but something’s gone missing in the new treatment. Okay, everything’s gone missing. A lot of the loss comes in making the story a period piece (not that Capra had much choice in ‘61). But where the zestful earlier film played as a tough & funny Depression Era fairy tale, the remake seems to run at half-speed. (And its forty-five extra minutes make the cast look like dunderheads.) A few players glean laughs (mostly Peter Falk & Edward Everett Horton), and Bette Davis, a most unlikely Apple Annie, at least keeps her dignity, but others aren’t so much miscast as defeated. Especially Glenn Ford, whose soft attack is like anti-matter, and Arthur O’Connell as a Spanish Count. You know you’re in trouble when you’ve got Arthur O’Connell playing a Spanish Count. With a thirty year retirement ahead of him, Capra seems relieved to throw in the towel.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: As mentioned above, Capra’s LADY FOR A DAY, about the best of all possible Damon Runyon adaptations.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Over-stuffed & bloated, POCKETFUL plays like a Hollywood embalming of a B’way musical. Begging the question, why hasn’t someone musicalized this story?

DOUBLE-BILL: Swansong for Capra regular supporting actor Thomas Mitchell following stellar perfs in DEEDS; LOST HORIZON; MR. SMITH and WONDERFUL LIFE.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Capra’s career-long fixation on the erotic nature of water running over glass gets a final workout as debuting young lovers Ann-Margret & Peter Mann bill & coo.

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