Frank Capra directed this film twice. The second version was called Pocketful of Miracles, starred the fearless Bette Davis, and was made in glorious technicolor. Both were actually very good films.
I've always been a huge Bette Davis fan so it's interesting that I have a soft spot for the combination of the audacious May Robson and the suave and debonair Warren William, but I think they work off one another really well and Warren William comes off as a more Runyonesque hood with a heart of gold than his counterpart in the later version Glenn Ford. These films were adapted from the Damon Runyon short story Madame Le Gimp.
The plot is fairly simple. Apple Annie (May Robson)is a down on her luck apple vendor during the depression. William's character Dave the Dude is a gambling hood who views Annie's apples as a talisman that brings him good luck. Dave tips Annie well, but she lives in a tenement but uses a swank NYC hotel as her mailing address and that's where the story lies. She is letting her convent educated daughter who is living in Europe subsidized by Dave's generous tips think she is a high society diva.
Annie's lie apparently goes on without complications until she receives a letter from her daughter saying she is coming to NYC with her fiancée who is a nobleman. Of course, this comes with little notice and goes to worse when it looks like her lie is going to be exposed. The rest of the movie involves a collective conspiracy to transform Annie and make her dreams come true.
What makes this story really compeling in both films is that while a lot of the mayhem is played for laughs, there is an underlying sadness in the Annie character that is heartbreaking. Robson was probably well beyond seventy when she made this film. It was completely implausible that she could have been the mother of a young woman, but there is an element of suspension of reason at work here. Her Annie is so sad and sweet that the viewer can totally ignore the age factor and get into the moment of what is going on.
Warren William is admittedly a ham, but he balances irritation with a peculiar affability that makes him come across as a softie when it comes to his good luck charm, Annie. The supporting cast does a good job fleshing out the story, imbuing it with an odd assortment of characters that makes this movie interesting. The hoods in Dave'the Dude's employ include Nat Pendelton, Guy Kibbee, Irving Bacon, and the wonderful deadpan actor Ned Sparks. Perennial wise girl Glenda Farrell play's Dave's girlfriend with charm and a seriously semi-tough edge.
The bonuses on this Blu-ray copy, include Frank Capra Jr.'s commentary and a film essay by Scott Eyeman. It was copied from Frank Capra's personal copy. The quality is o.k., which means better than previously available sources.