#20 – Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
Glenn Ford, Bette Davis, and Hope Lange
Director: Frank Capra, Producer: Frank Capra, with associate producers Glenn Ford and Joseph Sistrom, Production Company: United Artists
An alcoholic apple seller receives letters from her daughter at a fancy hotel, making the young lady, who is at school in Europe, think that her mother is a society matron. However, when the daughter announces that she is coming to New York to see her mother, the apple seller’s beggar friends enlist the aid of a gambler to help her keep her daughter’s illusions in tact.
In my last article in this series, I showed how Disney strayed off the path of Code compliance during the Shurlock Era with the film Bon Voyage! from 1962. Today, I am going to show how well-meaning directors like Frank Capra stopped making Code-compliant films after Joseph Breen’s retirement. This film is a remake of an earlier Frank Capra film, Lady for a Day (1933). I don’t know about that pre-Code film’s Code compliance, but Pocketful of Miracles contains more than a pocketful of objections. Some four-letter words are used in this movie. The relationship between Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford) and his girlfriend/moll Queenie Martin (Hope Lange) is questionable. Queenie wears some indecent costumes and performs in a few tawdry dance numbers. The discussion of gangster violence between mobs is rather gruesome at times. Also, Apple Annie (Bette Davis) had a child out of wedlock. However, I must commend the film for being vague about the details. Although drunkenness is not forbidden by the Code, Annie’s drunken wretchedness in a few scenes is disturbing. Overall, the unnecessary unacceptable content gives this film a vulgar, crass, dirty quality which is very unfortunate, since it wasn’t Frank Capra’s true style. In that unfortunate atmosphere, the Capra sentiment seems forced, contrived, and out of place. It is a shame to see how great directors like Frank Capra were dragged into the trends of compromising. Fortunately, Mr. Capra knew this wasn’t up to his usual standard, calling this a “miserable film.” He also knew when to get out, since this was his last feature film.
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