Pocketful of Miracles (1961)

“We’re nothing! We’re a bunch of grabbers, all of us, looking for the best of it!”

Synopsis:
When a destitute apple vendor (Bette Davis) learns her grown daughter (Ann-Margret) will be arriving from Spain with her noble fiance (Peter Mann) and his father (Arthur O’Connell), she enlists the help of a superstitious gangster (Glenn Ford) and his warm-hearted fiance (Hope Lange) in putting on an elaborate charade, including finding a man (Thomas Mitchell) to pose as Davis’s husband.

Genres:

Review:
Frank Capra remade his own Depression-era classic — Lady for a Day (1933) — into this Technicolor star vehicle that really… didn’t need to be made. Everything about his earlier version is superior, from the appropriately atmospheric b&w cinematography, to Robson’s genuinely touching lead performance, to its faster-paced running time (96 minutes in comparison with Pocketful…‘s dragging 136 minutes). Ford, Davis, and Lange try their best here, but Ford and Lange’s ongoing quibbling distracts from the central storyline, and Lange’s character undergoes far too rapid of a transformation for us to believe in. The material ultimately comes across as maudlin, with Apple Annie’s love of classical music a distraction rather than a pleasing backdrop. This film is primarily notable for offering Peter Falk a stand-out supporting role as Ford’s sidekick “Joy Boy”, and for introducing a giddy Ann-Margret to the big screen.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Peter Falk as Joy Boy

Must See?
Nope; you can skip this one, unless you’re a Bette Davis completist.

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2 Responses to “Pocketful of Miracles (1961)”

  1. A once-must for Davis fans.

    Having just rewatched this, I think Davis fans need to catch it for two reasons:
    1) she gives a good performance (of course) and a touching one;
    2) in the last 30 years of her career, Davis *rarely* had the opportunity to play a *nice* person – so this is an important role for fans for balance, if nothing else.

    Plus… as remakes go, I don’t think this is all that bad a film, even if it is a bit long. Yes, ‘Lady for a Day’ is more economical and it gets the job done without dragging things out.

    I’m not that bothered by the relationship squabbles between Ford and Lange. Nor do I find the film maudlin in a troublesome way. It also affords nice (late-career) turns by the likes of Edward Everett Horton and Thomas Mitchell.

    I can certainly think of a number of worse remakes.

  2. I can see this as a once-must for Davis fans, for your points above. It is nice to see her given a non-villainous role later in life.

    There have definitely been worse remakes! I just don’t think this one was “necessary”, but perhaps it served a nice function for audiences at the time.

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