Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1933. Columbia Pictures Corporation. Screenplay by Robert Riskin, from a story by Damon Runyon. Cinematography by Joseph Walker. Produced by Harry Cohn. Music by Howard Jackson. Production Design by Stephen Goosson. Costume Design by Robert Kalloch. Film Editing by Gene Havlick. Academy Awards 1932/1933.
Frank Capra ended his career by remaking this adorable tearjerker as Pocketful Of Miracles nearly thirty years later, but this is by far the superior of the two versions. May Robson is terrific as an apple seller during the Depression who is the lady luck of a big-time gambler. When she discovers that the child she had out of wedlock and sent to a convent to be raised by nuns is coming for a visit, she is dismayed because she has been writing letters to the girl (Jean Parker) letting her think that her mother is a grand society dame. Parker is arriving in New York to introduce her mother to a Spanish count she plans on marrying, and Robson’s desperation to ensure a happy marriage for her child takes her off the street and into her bottle. The gambler (Warren William), unwilling to let his lucky streak go, insists on doing everything possible to make the visit go smoothly, and watching it happen involves moments of sheer delight and deep tragedy. Capra didn’t really do much to change the story (based on a Damon Runyan tale, if you can’t tell from characters with names like “Missouri Martin”) when he remade it, but this version is about an hour shorter, and lengthening it only proved that the film’s original running time was all that was necessary.