Yesterday’s movie featured Bette Davis cast against type as a frump. Today’s movie marks her transition into character parts. It is 1961’s Pocketful of Miracles which was Frank Capra’s final movie. Davis plays Apple Annie, a homeless woman who shakes down the other panhandlers in NYC.
In the complicated plot (based on a Damon Runyan story) Ann-Margret plays Davis’ daughter who has never met her because she has been away at boarding school in Switzerland (paid for with proceeds from Davis and her cohorts). Glenn Ford and Hope Lange play a friendly gangster and his moll. Thomas Mitchell, Peter Falk, Edward Everett Horton, Arthur O’Connell and Sheldon Leonard.
Ford, Lange and Mitchell help Davis pass herself off as a society matron during her daughter’s visit. But of course, mayhem ensues. It is a witty story filled with its share of Capraesque moments as people do the right thing for the right reasons.
Peter Falk nabbed an Oscar nomination for his wise-cracking portrayal of Joy Boy, one of Ford’s henchmen. The film was the last for Mitchell, who once again played a lovable Irish drunk as he had in Gone with the Wind, It’s a Wonderful Life, Stagecoach (winning and Oscar) and so many other films. Ann-Margret is, well, Ann-Margret. While Ford and Lange may simply walk through their parts, they are affable, relaxed performers who seem to be enjoying the company.
Davis would later become a caricature of herself. But in this movie there are still flashes of brilliance. She spends much of the movie looking unglamorous. But when she emerges as a regal society grand dame, it is clear that she still can command a room.
The climax of the movie takes place on Christmas Eve. Capra’s message of hope and redemption fits well within this setting.