Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Pocketful of Miracles" with Bette Davis and Glenn Ford (1961)

Here’s a movie which captured my attention; as well as my heart; back when I was about 7 years old. As I grew up I was only ever to catch this one on late night TV reruns; and later on when it was released on VCR I was probably the only one to borrow it from the library. And that’s a shame because this is one fine movie.

From the original story by Damon Runyon (“Guys and Dolls”) to the direction by Frank Capra (too many films to mention) this movie has everything going for it. The acting is excellent, with none of the cast playing their roles “over the top” and chewing up the scenery. Even Peter Falk; who is known for being a bit too much like Peter Falk in all his roles; manages to pull off his role as Joy Boy with just the right mixture of comedy and pathos.

The story centers on the relationship between Apple Annie; played by Bette Davis in one of her finer roles; who is a poor street peddler selling apples on the corner during the Depression. Her best customer is Dave the Dude; a successful gambler played by Glenn Ford in one his most memorable roles; who is superstitious and never does anything without buying an apple from Annie before he does it. He believes in the power of luck, and that luck; as far as he is concerned; comes only from Annie’s apples.

Annie has a secret. The old woman has a daughter, Louise; played by Ann Margret; who lives out of town, where she attended a very prestigious school. Now grown, she is returning to New York City to see her mother, who she has not seen since she was a little girl. She believes her mother to a wealthy socialite named Mrs. E. Worthington Manville. She believes this because her mother has been writing her letters to this effect for many years. So, while Louise is excited, Annie is completely unhinged. Her daughter knows nothing about her mother’s real circumstances in general; let alone that she has been reduced to peddling apples in the street.

Annie has been conducting this ruse by obtaining stationary from the fancy hotel where she claims to be living. She uses that stationary to write the letters to her daughter and reinforce the fantasy of her life as a rich woman. But now that the gig is up Annie is terrified that her lies are about to be revealed. This is more than she can bear.

When Dave the Dude becomes aware of the problem he does what he does best. He’s a gambler after all; so he takes the long odds and with the urging of his girlfriend Queenie Martin; played by Hope Lang; he decides to help Annie. With Queenie coaching Annie on the refinements of being a socialite, Dave arranges for all their other friends to pitch in on the effort to save Annie’s reputation.

Pool hustler "Judge" Henry G. Blake ; played by Thomas Mitchell;  poses as Annie's husband. Dave also arranges for Annie and the Judge to occupy an out-of-town friend's hotel suite. Even the man’s butler, Hudgins; played by veteran character actor Edward Everett Horton; gets involved.

Dave, meanwhile, is having his own problems postponing a very important “meeting” with some very important “people”.  The whole film is pure Frank Capra as the two plots unfold and you are left wondering how all this will work itself out in the end. But it’s a Frank Capra film and everybody winds up being exactly where they should be. And along the way Dave the Dude learns that true luck; and love; don’t necessarily come from apples.

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