[Quick Summary: Panhandlers and con men rally around their fellow Apple Annie to make her a "lady for a day" to impress her daughter and rich European fiancee.]
This was Robert Riskin's first film with Frank Capra.*
It is not my favorite, though an entertaining ensemble story.
Two things that intrigued me:
A) Riskin broke the story into 10 "sequences":***
1- Everyone loves Apple Annie. She writes a letter to her daughter, who grew up in Europe. (4 scenes)
2 - Annie's daughter is coming to the US for the first time, and doesn't know Annie has been lying about her social status. (8 scenes)
3 - Fellow panhandlers ask Dude, a gangster who considers Annie as his lucky charm, to help pull off an elaborate hoax. (4 scenes)
4 - Hoax get complicated, including a fake husband for Annie. (7 scenes)
5 - Daughter arrives with fiancee and suspicious future father-in-law. (13 scenes)
6 - Duke smooths the way for a party for the engaged couple, including making a nosy reporter temporarily disappear. (2 scenes)
7 - Father-in-law asks uncomfortable questions. Duke has panhandlers trained to be respectable party guests. (10 scenes)
8 - Police put pressure on Dude, as 3 reporters go missing. (4 scenes)
9 - Spirits are low. Dude rouses the troops with a speech. (4 scenes)
10 - Big resolution. The couple leaves for Europe. Happily ever after. (37 scenes)
If I had to group them:
- Act 1 (1, 2, 3)
- Act 2 (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
- Act 3 (9, 10)
B) Why does Dude and everyone else go to such lengths for Apple Annie?
Out of heartwarming human decency for a friend. I liked that.
Cynics may say that it's just hokum, but I do not care.
"Glorified hokum" gives me hope and I'll take it any day. ***
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Any time I spot a grouping of scenes, it gives me food for thought. I always ask, "Why were they grouped that way?"
Also, I'm a sucker for well done, glorified hokum.
Lady for a Day (1933)
by Robert Riskin
Adapted from a story by Damon Runyon
*Capra must have really liked the story since he remade it 28 yrs. later as "Pocketful of Miracles" (1961), his last film.
** The # of scenes are slightly misleading, as they include intercutting.
*** "Unquestionably this is a script in which the deft handling of
situations and characterizations makes of an ordinary story a piece of
glorified hokum. And hokum, well done, makes excellent entertainment!" -
Editor of the published script, p. 25.