Frank Capra is undoubtedly an icon of American cinema, standing out as one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. While he lived until the early ’90s, his final theatrical film was released in 1961 in the form of Pocketful of Miracles. A remake of his own film, 1933’s Lady for a Day, It would become an experience that would give Capra something of a headache, with a long war for film rights, to friction with stars on set creating tensions which undoubtedly lead to his decision to call it a day on calling the shots. That unease is very much reflected in the film itself, meaning that Capra’s last film is not the capping glory one might expect such a landmark director to have.
Glenn Ford stars as Dave the Dude (no Lebowski relation), a charming, swindling, bootlegging raconteur, who believes the apples he receives from a poor street peddler, Annie (Bette Davis), bring him good luck. He soon finds himself giving something back for all the luck Annie’s apples have given him when he discovers that Annie has a daughter in Spain (Ann Margaret, in her screen debut), whom Annie has never met. Due to marry a Count, Annie’s daughter wants to come to America to meet her mother, but she’s under the impression that her mother is a wealthy woman of society. With the help of his fiancee Queenie (Hope Lange), Dave puts together a plan to turn Annie into a Lady up to the image that her daughter expects. Can they keep the facade going for long enough?
At its heart, Pocketful of Miracles is a screwball comedy about the performative nature of high society. As a screwball, it sometimes works, thanks to a combination of game performances amongst the cast. The likes of Thomas Mitchell as a pool hustler posing as Annie’s husband, and Peter Falk as The Dude’s right-hand man Joy Boy, get the best share of the laughs as the scheme becomes more and more elaborate. Ford himself keeps The Dude just on the right side of being a charming scoundrel, even if some of his actions are often quite questionable.
Full review over at Filmhounds Magazine, originally published September 21st 2020.