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.