As I popped the DVD in and pressed play, the first image to come up was full color. It was Frank Capra Jr., the great director’s son, telling me what a milestone Lady for a Day was for his father. He explained how Columbia Pictures was just itching for an Academy Award but none of their films had been nominated. Suddenly, Lady for a Day had four nominations. No wins, just nominations. The way Capra Jr. says this is earnestly and grateful for his father’s work. Little did I know that the film ahead would be about just as honest and kind virtues.
Annie (May Robson) is now a poor old woman who spends her time walking around Times Square selling apples. For years, she’s been writing to her daughter Louise, who lives in Spain, telling her that she’s a member of high society. That little white fairy tale lie doesn’t seem to do any harm, until Annie receives word that Louise (Jean Parker) is coming to visit her so that her fiancé and his father, Count Romero (Walter Connolly), can meet her.
Poor Annie is so upset, how can she tell her daughter that she’s a panhandler on the street? Even worse, when the Count finds out, he’ll surely break off the marriage and Louise’s life will be ruined all because of Annie and her lies just to make her daughter proud. All Annie can think to do is slink away to a bottle of gin, but her fellow panhandler friends get worried. So they find David the Dude (Warren William) a mob man they work together with, and find Annie. When they learn her problem, they concoct a scheme to make her look like high society for the time her daughter is in town. The Dude is a little hesitant at first, he’ll be the one paying for it all, but agrees to help Annie.
Now Apple Annie, as her panhandlers and mob friends call her, is a sight that would frighten children away. Her faded white hair sticks out under her worn hat like tufts of straw and she dresses in a long dark cloak that reminded me of the old witch in Snow White. When the Dude’s friends fix Annie up, ah, it’s one of those heartwarming transformations. Suddenly, her face just glows and shines softly against her head and the beautiful dress instantly removes all notions of a hunched old woman. The best part is that Annie is the most surprised and so thankful.
To complete her transformation they have to find Annie a nice apartment, and a husband. At a pool hall they find Judge Henry G. Blake (Guy Kibbee), their best choice for someone already rehearsed in proper etiquette. When Louise is in town, it’s Blake’s idea to have a lavish reception in honor of the Count. But how can the Dude fabricate an entire reception supposedly full of wealthy and important people from his gang of panhandlers?
Lady for a Day is just one of those movies that really warms your heart. It’s just wonderful how all the people jumping through hoops to help Annie are all mob men and street beggars, you don’t usually associate them with such lengthy acts of kindness. And the best part is how grateful Annie is for everything, she realizes she’s put everyone in trouble with her and she feels she doesn’t deserve any of it, yet everyone is so willing to help her in so many ways.
I must recommend Lady for a Day. It’s perfect for all ages, has a wonderful message about kindness and it’s full of laughs along the way.
“You believe in fairy tales dontcha?”