One great DVD pick: Lady for a Day on DVD & Blu-ray. This is a fabulous Frank Capra movie about Apple Annie, an elderly street vendor (May Robson) with tattered clothes but a heart of gold. She wants to impress her daughter who’s coming to visit with her fiancé, a hoity-toity Count. All these years, Robson’s daughter has been away at a Spanish school, and Robson has been signing her letters as Lady Manville and describing in great detail a make-believe high life spent hobnobbing with luminaries; now Robson needs to play the part for real, or risk breaking her daughter’s heart and jeopardizing her marriage. Heart-warming and delightful seem such over-used, trite and flimsy words, but in their purest definition perfectly describe this movie.
The cast combination, though it may be “lesser-known” to classic movie newbies, is magic: Warren William plays the slick gangster who believes his gambling luck depends on Annie’s apples, and so, partly out of superstition, but mostly because he has a soft heart which he tries mightily to conceal, he moves heaven and earth (or, rather, all the underworld figures he can intimidate, blackmail or cajole), directing all his considerable charm and resources to helping Robson pose as the center of a high society circle. The fantasy world he creates is awe-inspiring, populated by colorful characters and played by comedy masters in juicy roles, greats like Glenda Farrell, Nat Pendleton, Ned Sparks and a deceptively doofus-y Guy Kibbee as Robson’s “husband,” “Judge” Manville. The way they all pull together, despite bickering and threats to quit, and hold the spectacularly ridiculous masquerade together is as suspenseful as any thriller. Nosy reporters smell something’s not right? No problem, kidnap them. Gangsters and their molls don’t sound convincing enough to pass as swells? No problem, write scripts and speeches for them and rehearse everything like a big Broadway production replete with lessons in bearing and posture, much to the puzzlement of the authorities, who seem convinced this weird behavior is all meant for some criminal purpose.
When things finally seem doomed to fall apart, and even Robson loses all hope, Warren William pulls off one whopper of a save, and restores not just the situation at hand but your very faith in humanity. This is one of the movies that falls into the category “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.
Remake/ classic lit news continues with Huck Finn, and some more Psycho casting, and here are some classic cartoon bits: the inspiration for Josie & the Pussycats has died, and yes! You can buy the Mystery Machine! Zoiks!