Film / Lady for a Day

Mrs. E. Worthington Manville waits at the dock.

Lady for a Day is an Academy Award nominated film from 1933, directed by Frank Capra, based on the short story "Madame La Gimp" by Damon Runyon. Capra remade it in 1961 under the title Pocketful of Miracles, starring Bette Davis.

The film is about a poor woman called "Apple Annie", who sent her daughter, Louise, abroad, and sends most of the money she makes (both by selling apples or hustling) to help her daughter grow up well off. She also made her daughter think she was well-born and that Annie is living an upper class lifestyle.

But then her daughter is engaged to a Spanish count, who wishes to meet her. The truth would ruin the match and humiliate everyone. Fortunately, a mobster, Dave the Dude, has been buying her apples for years, as a good luck charm. He agrees to help her out in return. Unfortunately, maintaining the charade is not so simple.

The remake, Pocketful of Miracles (1961), was the last film for both director Capra and veteran character actor Thomas Mitchell, and was also the film debut of Ann-Margaret. This version adds a few subplots, such as Queenie Martin's efforts to get Dave the Dude to marry her, and Dave's negotiations with Steve Darcy (a mobster from Chicago).

In 1989, Jackie Chan directed and starred in a version set in 1930s Hong Kong, called Miracles (also known as Mr. Canton and Lady Rose or Black Dragon). This version is based most closely on Pocketful of Miracles.

In 2008, Akshay Kumar starred in Singh is Kinng, using the same story.

Story and films provide examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Pocketful of Miracles goes into a lot more detail about the mobster's backstory. It also shows the first meeting between Dave and his girlfriend (called Queenie in this version).
  • Ambiguously Gay: Pierre in both the original and the remake. He is one of the crew of makeup artists, etc. that Queenie Martin brings in to give Apple Annie a complete makeover. They all head into the bedroom and the dialogue goes something like this:
    Dave the Dude: Hey, he can't go in there!
    Missouri/Queenie: It's all right, trust me.
    Dave the Dude: Oh...Pierre.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Joy Boy, one of Dave's henchmen in Pocketful of Miracles, is the narrator, and pretty snarky.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Annie's reaction to her daughter coming home, and worried that her daughter will be humiliated and ruined.
  • Happy Ending: A surprisingly straight example. Just when the film seems like it is setting up a tearful confession from Annie, to be followed by her daughter's tearful forgiveness, the mayor and the governor and other big-wigs show up and save Annie's bacon. Significantly, the movie ends with Annie waving goodbye to her daughter from the dock, and does not show her returning to her life on the streets.
  • Hollywood Costuming: Pocketful of Miracles had a few nods to 1930s clothing, but the overall look (especially the women's formal dresses at the end) owed more to the time it was made.
  • Hypocritical Humor: From Shakespeare, Dave's dimwitted Mook.
    Shakespeare: "A fella told me it was hard luck being superstitious."
  • Just in Time: Just as Annie feels she has no choice but to confess her secret and ruin her daughter's marriage, the mayor shows up with guests to help keep up the charade for Annie. So does the governor. And the police commissioner.
  • Maintain the Lie: An impressive amount of work goes into making Louise and Annie's in-laws think that Annie is Mrs. E. Worthington Manville, a wealthy society lady. Dave the Dude borrows a friend's apartment. The various thugs, lowlifes, and beggars that know Annie dress up as society folk. The mayor and the governor come to her daughter's reception. The police commissioner arranges a police escort to take Louise and Annie's in-laws to the port to board ship.
  • Mock Millionaire: Mr. and Mrs. E. Worthington Manville, with Annie's husband being played by pool hustler Henry Blake (Guy Kibbee in the original, Thomas Mitchell in the remake).
  • Pretty in Mink: Lady for a Day and Pocketful of Miracles had loads of furs. In both, Louise has a white ermine shoulder cape.
  • Princess for a Day: Or in this case a society lady for a day.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Apple Annie is older than the usual subject of this trope.
  • A Simple Plan: Grows increasingly complicated as Dave the Dude, because he believes Annie is good luck (and probably because he genuinely likes her), faces more and more obstacles. A bunch of society reporters from New York newspapers show up at the dock when the ship carrying Louise arrives. The reporters obviously will expose Annie as a fake, so Dave has them kidnapped.

Alternative Title(s): Pocketful Of Miracles