AMAD: POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES (1961)
My wife don’t like it when I go around marryin’ people. She’s funny that way.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we follow the lovely Ann-Margret over from THE CINCINNATI KID to her first screen appearance, 1961’s Frank Capra comedy/drama POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES.
This is a fine movie, but I had a lot of trouble staying interested in it. It’s a cute story about a gangster rising to the top of the heap named Dave “The Dude” Conway, played by the always dependable Glenn Ford, who has to juggle a big charade while staring down The King of the underground in a power move to control the city.
The charade involves passing off a local dirt poor apple seller/street hustler as a member of high society. This character, an old woman named Apple Annie, is played by Bette Davis in a very elegant and sympathetic performance. She has a daughter she hasn’t seen since her early childhood. Stealing stationary from a local ritzy hotel, Apple Annie keeps a pen pal relationship going with her daughter, painting a fairy tale version of herself.
Apple Annie is the Queen of the streets, leading every deaf, handicapped and/or midget peddler. This is her immediate family and they all thrive on getting letters back from Annie’s daughter, each getting a turn to read over it, like she was their own daughter.
Apple Annie’s apples are promised to bring luck and Glenn Ford buys one, tipping heavily, early in the film when he’s a nobody. That very day, he meets the woman he loves, inherits a club and combines the two, making his love (Hope Lange) a showgirl. The business booms and he always gives credit for that to Apple Annie’s lucky apples.
Of course, Ford isn’t exactly a clean dude. He uses the club as a front for bootlegging and when prohibition ends he’s left to either go into retirement or establish himself in the underground. But he can’t face the big boss is he doesn’t have his lucky apple and that’s where his troubles really begin.
Turns out Annie’s in at the hotel is caught grabbing a letting from her daughter, which he usually delivers to Annie himself and is fired. She is able to get the letter and the news is both great and horrible.
The good news is that Annie’s daughter, Louise (Ann-Margret), has met the man of her dreams and they intend to get married. The bad news is she’s bringing them to New York to meet her.
Annie hits the bottle and disappears, causing The Dude to go searching for her, desperate for the luck he’ll need going into this big meeting.
He is convinced to help this poor woman because of many factors. One, the luck he gets from the apple is kind of a karma thing. He pays $5 per apple, allowing Annie to send money to her daughter, keeping up the charade, so if Annie is distraught and he can’t help her in overpaying for the fruit then the luck won’t be there. Another reason is his girl, who wants to settle down and get him out of a life of crime. Hope Lange opens her heart to Annie and she insists. Plus, Ford isn’t a bad guy. He’s no tough crime lord. He feels for the woman, too.
So the second half of the movie is Ford putting off the big boss in order to create this false existence for this poor woman, setting her up in a deluxe penthouse at the hotel she was just recently escorted out of for making a scene about her daughter’s letter, giving Annie a full make-over and even finding someone to stand in as her invented husband, in the form of a local billiard hustler/judge, played with childish energy by Thomas Mitchell.
The last act of the movie is Ford running around trying to put out fires, keep the illusion going and all the while finding new ways to delay the big boss.
Everybody is quite likable, especially Bette Davis, which is important. If you didn’t want to see her happy you’d immediately be turned off by all the trouble the rest of the cast are put through for her. Ford is great, Lange is gorgeous and funny, Ann-Margret was such a stunner back then. She must have been 19 or 20 when she filmed this and radiates an innocent sensuality. She’s kind, not the sex goddess she would soon become… not yet.
But the MVP of the movie is Peter Falk as Ford’s right-hand man, Joy Boy. He’s the reason I stayed with the movie. He plays the character with a little amused bewildered cynicism. He’s a smart ass and is the perfect comedy relief, playing the audience’s mouthpiece. Falk continually comments on the ridiculousness of the whole situation and gives some winning lines, including the one I picked for the quote in the headline. And a bit of trivia: Falk was nominated for his role, best supporting actor. He lost out to George Chakiris for WEST SIDE STORY.
So, it’s a good movie with a lot of great characters, but it’s not one that really connected with me. I stayed with it, was engaged whenever Peter Falk was onscreen and enjoyed everybody else, but there was just a distance I felt from the material. It could be I’m a little worn out and this was the third movie of the day for me and I just couldn’t concentrate on it. That’s definitely a possibility I will extend to the film. Whatever the reason, I liked it enough, but it just didn’t blow my socks off.
Final Thoughts: Frank Capra’s sentimentality is on full display here, giving us a ton of likable characters. Even the skeazy people are likable… hell, some of the skeazy people are the MOST likable people in the movie. Perhaps if I had approached with a fresher mindset I’d be a lot more into the movie, but as it stands now it’s a movie I appreciate and enjoy, just on a disconnected level. But the movie has a midget in it, so it’s automatically better than average.
Here’s what we have lined up for the next week:
Saturday, December 6th: MIKEY & NICKY (1976)
Sunday, December 7th: TWO MINUTE WARNING (1976)
Monday, December 8th: THE SENTINEL (1976)
Tuesday, December 9th: HOW TO STEAL A MILLION (1966)
Wednesday, December 10th: WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? (1965)
Thursday, December 11th: BEING THERE (1979)
Friday, December 12th: THE PARTY (1968)
Tomorrow we hit a ‘70s film teaming Peter Falk with John Cassavetes called MIKEY & NICKY! See you folks for that one!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador
November 18th: Best Seller
November 19th: The Holcroft Covenant
November 20th: Birdman of Alcatraz
November 21st: The Train
November 22nd: Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
November 23rd: Mystery Street
November 24th: Border Incident
November 25th: The Tin Star
November 26th: On The Beach
November 27th: Twelve O’Clock High
November 28th: Gentleman’s Agreement
November 29th: Panic In The Streets
November 30th: The Hot Rock
December 1st: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
December 2nd: The Day of the Dolphin
December 3rd: Carnal Knowledge
December 4th: The Cincinnati Kid
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Dec. 6, 2008, 5:53 a.m. CST
Quint, just for your information, look out for the sequel to the book "The Sentinel" called "The Apocalypse" (never was a film as far as I know) because The Sentinel sets the ground rules and the Apocalypse is a real whodunnit - as in this time, you don't know who the Sentinel is and who Satan is disguised as. It's really quite good. <p> As for this item - it's a shame Peter Falk didn't a) get better known for his non-Columbo work and b) as of yet, didn't get one last outing as Columbo to give the character a send off.
Dec. 6, 2008, 5:57 a.m. CST
by greigy just wanted to say
One of the few Capra movies I've never seen... curiosity peaked to see it now...(which I supposed is what this column's all about).... But always felf Ford was very unappreciated underrated actor.. Much missed...
Dec. 6, 2008, 6:05 a.m. CST
One of the stranger things about The Sentinel is its almost completely all star cast (some of whom were admittedly still on the way up). Christopher Walken and James Goldblum for example had small parts and they were just 2 of a lot of famous names in it. Beverly D'Angelo as best as I can remember didn't even have any dialogue ...
Dec. 6, 2008, 7:04 a.m. CST
awesome The party? Sorry, i just don't see it It makes me feel bad for both Blake and Sellers.
Dec. 6, 2008, 9:14 a.m. CST
I saw it a few times as a kid and now it's on my DVD shelf. There's some great lines and it's a fun movie. "Aww, come on, I've been bowing so much I've got callouses on my bellybutton!" "They wont even let me see my mama since they put her into solitary."
Dec. 6, 2008, 10:48 a.m. CST
you forgot to mention that this is Capra's last film. he writes quite a bit about the making of the movie and his notorious fights with Ford. he was also experiencing health problems and studio difficulties. turns out his brand of sentimentality was on the wane and he wasn't particularly in demand. this was the end of a magnificent career that few if any modern filmmakers could emulate.
Dec. 6, 2008, 1:31 p.m. CST
Pocketful of Miracles was a remake of one of Capra's earlier films, Lady for a Day, made in 1933 and based a Damon Runyon story. While Pocketful of Miracles was fun and had a much better cast (both in acting talent and in star power) I prefer the original much more. In part because it was filmed in 1933, the height of the Great Depression, giving the film a much more “real” feel to it and a much greater emotional impact. The scenario in Pocketful of Miracles plays much more as a plot device, while Lady for a Day the plot plays off as some deep wish and fantasy that many in the audience might have. Sure the characters are loopy and zany, but they also project the real pain of poverty and the sense of disappointment in your lot in life, something the new film fails to do in my opinion. <p> The best version of this story though was a wacky adaptation in a 40's Batman or Detective Comics, involving Bruce Wayne/Batman helping a homeless woman pull off the con that she is successful socialite to her visiting daughter and her rich fiancé'. “Holy Capra, Batman!” “Watch your language, Robin.”
Dec. 6, 2008, 1:32 p.m. CST
...hands down is Fritz Lang's The Big Heat. Have you seen that one yet Quint?
Dec. 6, 2008, 2:55 p.m. CST
by greigy just wanted to say
Some prick will remake it no doubt...
Dec. 6, 2008, 7:19 p.m. CST
It's easy to find as it's frequently on TCM. It has a slow build-up by current standards but it pays off with great lines delivered by a who's who of Hollywood's greatest character actors. Terrific holiday movie - if you're in the mood to sit back and relax you could do a lot worse!
Dec. 6, 2008, 11:18 p.m. CST
by vroom socko
Every year as far back as I can remeber, my dad would put this one in the machine on Christmas Eve. I'm pretty sure there hasn't been a year where he didn't laugh at the hotel manager's bit with Apple Annie's basket. <p> Also, while this was a remake of Lady For A Day, it's not the only remake. Jackie Chan, of all people, did a version called Miracles. Or Black Dragon, or Mr. Canton and Lady Rose, depending on where you live. If you ever thought "Glenn Ford is good in this, but how cool would it be if he got in a fistfight with Sheldon Leonard in a warehouse full of rope..."
Dec. 7, 2008, 7:42 a.m. CST
This is a remake of "Lady For A Day" (1933). It's based on a Damon Runyon short story, the 1933 version is less saccharine.
Dec. 7, 2008, 8:44 a.m. CST
I totally agree with you about the 1933 original having a greater impact because of when it was filmed. I enjoyed both movies, but the original feels authentic because it is.
Dec. 8, 2008, 10:49 a.m. CST
... I'm glad this was his last film. When you start ripping yourself off, it's time to go. A very mediocre remake that the young Capra would have hated. He didn't have a lot of nice things to say about Ford in his autobiography, either.
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