Pocketful of Miracles

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Pocketful of Miracles
PocketfulPoster.jpg
Original poster
Directed by Frank Capra
Produced by Frank Capra
Written by Hal Kanter
Harry Tugend
Based on a screenplay by Robert Riskin
Starring Glenn Ford
Bette Davis
Hope Lange
Arthur O'Connell
Music by Walter Scharf
Cinematography Robert J. Bronner
Editing by Frank P. Keller
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates December 19, 1961
Running time 136 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.9 million
Box office $2.5 million

Pocketful of Miracles is a 1961 American comedy film starring Bette Davis and Glenn Ford, and directed by Frank Capra. The screenplay by Hal Kanter and Harry Tugend is based on the screenplay Lady for a Day by Robert Riskin, which was adapted from the Damon Runyon short story "Madame La Gimp".

The film proved to be the final project for both Capra and veteran actor Thomas Mitchell but also featured the film debut of Ann-Margret.

Supporting player Peter Falk was nominated for an Academy Award but George Chakiris won that year for West Side Story. Capra said that Falk's performance was a bright spot in this "miserable film."

The 1989 film Miracles starring Jackie Chan and Anita Mui is based on Pocketful of Miracles.

Plot[edit]

Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford) is a successful, very superstitious New York City gangster who buys apples from street peddler Apple Annie (Bette Davis) to bring him good luck. On the eve of a very important meeting, he finds Annie terribly upset.

Annie, it turns out, has a daughter named Louise (Ann-Margret), who was sent to a school in Europe as a child, but is now a grown woman. Louise believes her mother to be wealthy socialite Mrs. E. Worthington Manville, and she is bringing her aristocratic fiancé Carlos and his father, Count Alfonso Romero (Arthur O'Connell), to meet her. Annie has been pretending that she resides in a luxurious hotel (writing her letters on stolen hotel stationery) and has Louise's letters mailed there, then intercepted by a friend and handed over to her.

Dave's good-hearted girlfriend Queenie Martin (Hope Lange) persuades him to help Annie continue her charade. Queenie takes on the task of transforming the derelict into a dowager. Dave arranges for cultured pool hustler "Judge" Henry G. Blake (Thomas Mitchell) to pose as Annie's husband. He installs her in an out-of-town friend's suite in the hotel, complete with Hudgins (Edward Everett Horton), his friend's butler.

When Dave keeps postponing a meeting with an extremely powerful gangster to help Annie, his right-hand man Joy Boy (Peter Falk) becomes increasingly exasperated. Dave manages to engineer a lavish reception with New York's mayor and governor as guests. Louise and her impressed future husband and father-in-law return to Europe, none the wiser about her mother's real identity.

Production[edit]

Frank Capra had directed Lady for a Day in 1933 and for years had wanted to film a remake, but executives at Columbia Pictures, which owned the screen rights, felt the original story was too old-fashioned. In the mid-1950s, when Hal Wallis offered to buy it as a Paramount Pictures vehicle for Shirley Booth, Columbia head Harry Cohn decided to offer it to Capra instead, hoping he could lure Booth to his studio. Unable to persuade either Abe Burrows or Garson Kanin to update the plot, Capra began working on the screenplay himself. His modern version, which involved Korean War orphans and an apple farm in Oregon, was filled with Cold War rhetoric and retitled Ride the Pink Cloud. Cohn insisted Capra find a collaborator, but he thought the draft submitted by Harry Tugend was no better, and he dropped the project.[1]

In 1960, Capra bought the screen rights from Columbia for $225,000,[2] and the director made a deal with United Artists, where it was decided to film the story as a period piece set in the 1930s. Capra originally cast Frank Sinatra as Dave the Dude, but the actor walked out due to disagreements about the script. Kirk Douglas, Dean Martin, and Jackie Gleason rejected the role. Then Glenn Ford approached Capra with an offer to help finance the film through his production company if he was cast as the lead. The director felt Ford was wrong for the part but out of desperation he agreed to the arrangement, which called for each of them to receive 37½ percent of the film's profits. Ford was paid $350,000 up front, but Capra received only $200,000. Because the film never earned back its cost, he lost an additional $50,000 in deferred salary.[1]

Hope Lange as Queenie Martin

Budgeted at $2.9 million, the film began principal photography on April 20, 1961.[1] Cast as Apple Annie was Bette Davis, who accepted the role after Shirley Booth, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, and Jean Arthur turned it down. Davis was undergoing financial difficulties, and the need for the $100,000 paycheck overshadowed her concern about making her Hollywood comeback (her last American film had been Storm Center in 1956) in the role of an elderly hag.[1][3] From the beginning, she clashed with co-star Glenn Ford, who had demanded Hope Lange, his girlfriend at the time, be given the dressing room adjacent to his, one that had been assigned to Davis. Davis graciously insisted any dressing room she was given would be adequate, noting "Dressing rooms have never been responsible for the success of a film." [2] Despite her effort to avoid an unpleasant situation, Davis was given the room Lange had wanted, and from then on Ford began treating her like a supporting player. In an interview, he suggested he was so grateful to Davis for the support she had given him during the filming of A Stolen Life in 1946, he had insisted she be cast as Apple Annie in order to revive her sagging career, a condescending remark Davis never forgot or forgave.[2][3] Because of Ford's involvement with the financing of the film, Capra refused to intervene in any of the disagreements between the two stars, but he suffered blinding and frequently incapacitating headaches as a result of the stress. Filming was completed in late June 1961, and Capra painfully struggled to get through the post-production period.[1][2][3] Upon its completion, he professed to prefer the remake to the original, although most critics, and in later years film historians and movie buffs, disagreed with his assessment.[1]

Cast[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

The critic for The Hollywood Reporter was one of the few reviewers to look upon the film favorably, calling it "a Christmas sockful of joy, funny, sentimental, romantic [and] frankly capricious." [1] In the New York Times, A.H. Weiler noted, "Mr. Capra and his energetic troupe manage to get a fair share of laughs from Mr. Runyon's oddball guys and dolls, but their lampoon is dated and sometimes uneven and listless . . . Repetition and a world faced by grimmer problems seem to have been excessively tough competition for this plot." [1]

Variety thought the plot "alternates uneasily between wit and sentiment" and added, "The picture seems too long, considering that there's never any doubt as to the outcome, and it's also too lethargic, but there are sporadic compensations of line and situation that reward the patience. Fortunately Capra has assembled some of Hollywood's outstanding character players for the chore . . . The best lines in the picture go to Peter Falk, who just about walks off with the film when he's on." [4] In Films in Review, Elaine Rothschild stated "this unbelievable and unfunny comedy proves only that director Frank Capra has learned nothing and forgotten nothing in the 28 years that intervened between the two pictures. Pocketful of Miracles is not merely out of whole cloth, but out of date, and watching it is a painful experience." [1]

Awards and nominations[edit]

DVD release[edit]

MGM Home Entertainment released the film on Region 1 DVD on September 18, 2001. It is in non-anamorphic widescreen format with audio tracks in English and Spanish and subtitles in Spanish and French.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i McBride, Joseph, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success. New York: Simon & Schuster 1992. ISBN 0-671-73494-6, pp. 627, 635-639
  2. ^ a b c d Stine, Whitney, Mother Goddam: The Story of the Career of Bette Davis. New York: Hawthorn Books 1974. ISBN 0-8015-5184-6, pp. 277-278, 286
  3. ^ a b c Higham, Charles, The Life of Bette Davis. New York: Macmillan Publishing 1981. ISBN 0-02-551500-4, pp. 257-258, 260
  4. ^ Variety review

External links[edit]