Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 1961. Franton Productions. Screenplay by Hal Kanter, Harry Tugend, based on a screenplay by Robert Riskin, from a story by Damon Runyon. Cinematography by Robert J. Bronner. Produced by Frank Capra. Music by Walter Scharf. Production Design by Roland Anderson, Hal Pereira. Costume Design by Edith Head, Walter Plunkett. Film Editing by Frank P. Keller. Academy Awards 1961. Golden Globe Awards 1961.
Frank Capra remakes his own Lady For A Day with mediocre results, taking a charming little black and white movie and blowing it up into a ridiculously overproduced Technicolour feast for the senses. Bette Davis, in a role that the producers should be ashamed of wasting her talents in, plays a crotchety old apple seller who works the streets and is the particular delight of a superstitious gangster (Glenn Ford). Ford believes that Davis’s apples bring him luck, so when she ends up in a pot of trouble he decides that he has to help her or else risk eternal doom. Davis’s problem is that she has for years been pretending in letters to her daughter, whom she had out of wedlock and sent to a Spanish convent to be raised, that she is a grand society dame when she is really a streetwalking vendor. Now her daughter (Ann-Margret in her first role) is coming to New York City with her prospective husband, a Spanish count, and Davis must be dressed to impress. Enter Ford and his exasperated fiancee (a wonderful Hope Lange), who take care of everything necessary to pull the stunt off. Peter Falk has some great scenes as the hood who tries to keep Ford’s focus on their own business and not the tending of an old lady, and he veritably steals the show with his wisecracks. The film in general, however, is bloated and too clunky, with Davis embarrassing herself by playing everything for tears and Capra’s usually light touch suffering under the weight of the grand sets and eyepopping photography.