Lady for a Day (1933)


Frank Capra

A gangster tries to make Apple Annie, the Times Square apple seller, a lady for a day.
Apple Annie is an indigent woman who has always written to her daughter in Spain that she is a member of New York’s high society. With her daughter suddenly en route to America with her new fiancé and his father, a member of Spain’s aristocracy, Annie must continue her pretense of wealth or the count will not give his blessing. She gets unexpected help from Dave the Dude, a well-known figure in underground circles who considers Annie his good luck charm, and who obtains for her a luxury apartment to entertain the visitors – but this uncharacteristic act of kindness from a man with a disreputable reputation arouses suspicions, leading to complications which further cause things to not always go quite as planned.

Great early Capra

28 July 2004 | by dfree30684 (United States) – See all my reviews

this is the film that precedes IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT for the team of Frank Capra (director) and Robert Riskin (screenwriter). Sadly it’s not regarded as one of his beloved classics…it deserves to be. William Warren is the perfect Dave the Dude, who’s heart of gold aids the distressed aged damsel (May Robson…the titled LADY FOR A DAY). Most of it’s innocent charm and humor haven’t faded over the 71 years since it’s release. Speaking of 70’s…at 74 May Robson was the oldest actress to receive a Best Actress nomination.

the scene near the end; where she’s received by the real mayor of New York and his party guests at her phony party (meant to show off her “society” friends to her daughter, and future inlaws) is priceless. Miss Robson’s quiet, teary eyed smile will still bring the viewer to near tears today. Also, Guy Kibbie, and Ned Sparks provide reliable comic support. a must see for all Capra fans.


I may have to change my mind about Capra!

Author: Ursula 2.7T from my sofa
23 February 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I’m no Capra fan, but here’s a second movie of his (along with “The Miracle Woman”) that I just loved. Maybe his pre-Codes are better than his other movies? I may have to change my mind about Capra, or at least see some more of his pre-Code movies; they’re terrific!


This movie was sweet and touching, without being sickening sweet or melodramatic. This movie also has lots of humor and some great dialogue. This 72-yr-old movie holds up extremely well. I was utterly charmed by this movie.

The story revolves around an elderly woman, Apple Annie, who is quite poor. She sells apples for a living and sends all her money to her daughter, Louise, who lives in Spain. Annie is ashamed of her lifestyle, and she leads her daughter to believe she’s a high-society lady by writing letters on the stationery of a posh hotel. Annie even has a friend on the inside of the hotel who passes Louise’s letters that are sent to the hotel to Annie.


One of Apple Annie’s clients is “Dave the Dude”, the head of a local mob. Before he does any business dealings, Dave always buys an apple from Annie for good luck.

Well, not to spoil the movie too much, let me just say that Annie finds out her daughter is coming to town (New York) and she panics. Her panhandler friends talk Dave into setting Annie up in a suite at the posh hotel so that she can continue the pretense for her daughter’s sake. Dave gets most of his mobster and street friends involved in one way or another — the potential is here for great sappiness, but amazingly the story unfolds with just pure sweetness and lots of humor that has held up very well over the past 3/4-century.


The performances by the lead actors were terrific. May Robson as Annie was wonderful; she gave a tender, subtle performance as the mother who loved her daughter so much, yet was so ashamed of the way she (Annie) lived. Warren William was terrific as Dave the Dude – I think his was probably the toughest role to play as he had to be a “bad guy” mob head as well as a softie who went out of his way to make Annie a lady for a day. Guy Kibbee as Annie’s husband was superb, a common pool hustler who played an upper-crust gentleman. The rest of the cast were pretty good too … I especially enjoyed the actor who played the dry and sardonic “Happy”; he had some of the best lines in the show.

So, in conclusion, snappy dialogue, nice mix of drama and humor, and just the right amount of sweetness make for a wonderful pre-Code movie. If you enjoy old movies, this is a movie that you definitely won’t be sorry you watched. Highly recommended.


It Made Columbia Pictures With A Second Choice Cast

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
12 February 2008

Back in the days of the studio system only one B picture outfit managed to vault itself into the big time and compete with the majors. That studio was Harry Cohn’s Columbia and the film that did it was Frank Capra’s Lady For A Day.

In his very candid memoirs Capra said unabashedly that his goal was to win one of those statues nicknamed Oscar. The Motion Picture Academy Awards were only five years old, but still the awards were coveted then because it meant prestige and far bigger salaries and in a director’s case, bigger budgets to work with.


Capra said he tried and failed with a very arty film, The Bitter Tea of General Yen which lost money for Columbia and Cohn. He set out try it a different way with a sentimental story from that most sentimental of writers, Damon Runyon. The original story was entitled Madame LaGimp and it was about a street beggar who the great city of New York takes to its heart for a brief period with the assistance of a gangster with a streak of sentiment.

But this was Columbia, the poverty row studio so Capra couldn’t get the only old lady movie star around in Marie Dressler from MGM. May Robson was his second choice for Apple Annie, the street beggar who has a daughter in a convent school in Spain and engaged to marry into Spanish nobility.

As for the gangster Capra wanted James Cagney, but Harry Cohn couldn’t pry him loose from Jack Warner. He was offered Warren William instead and certainly the dapper and elegant William played a different kind of gangster than Cagney would have. For William’s moll, Capra’s partner and screenwriter for Lady for a Day Robert Riskin persuaded his then girl friend Glenda Farrell to take the part. She Jack Warner was willing to part with.

With the great skill that Capra had in casting his films, some of the best character actors around like Guy Kibbee, Nat Pendleton, Ned Sparks, and Walter Connolly filled out his roster. A lot of these people would work for Frank Capra again and again.


Came Oscar time and Lady for a Day had the great distinction of being nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay adapted from another source. This was the first film from Columbia Pictures that was ever nominated for anything by the Motion Picture Academy. May Robson made Capra forget he ever wanted Marie Dressler. Unfortunately she lost to a young actress picking up her first of four Oscars, Katharine Hepburn.

Riskin lost to the writers of Little Women and the film itself lost that year to the British story Cavalcade. One of the most embarrassing moments in Frank Capra’s life occurred when Awards host Will Rogers in announcing the Best Director said “come up and get it Frank.”


Capra rose thinking it was him and the spotlights came down on him. Then there was a frantic buzzing and the spotlight shifted to the opposite side of the hall where Frank Lloyd got up to accept the award that was meant for him for directing Cavalcade. Talk about feeling like a nickel looking for change.

However next year Capra’s next film It Happened One Night swept all the major Oscars including his first. It sounds like something that only could have happened in a Frank Capra movie.


Lady for a Day Themes and Thoughts

Author: Shadow10262000 from United States
16 March 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Things aren’t always what they seem. A person may appear to be rich, happy, and enjoying life, when in fact they are poorer than dirt, have not smiled in days, and are just miserable everyday. Apple Annie was a woman who didn’t live in the best of circumstances but she made the best of what she had. She sold apples to earn money to send to her daughter living in Spain. Such a kind old woman who is trying her best to survive, and she makes that best of her poor little life. She has made many friends in her life some poorer than her and other who are well enough off to not even worry about money. An acquaintance that she has, Dave the Dude, is a well off man, although it is not of total honest ways, as he is the leader of a gang, but he is always kind to Apple Annie and believes that she is good luck for him. He believes that an apple a day does more than keep the doctor away, it keeps the cops away as well as gives him luck in his dealings. Not quite the fairy tale that one would expect but maybe it is. Is it possible that bad guys have good qualities? Can a grown man believe in a fairy tale? Can a lie really turn out to be good or must it be covered up by a string of more lies.


In Lady for a Day we see much of a fairy tale made of lies come to life through the kindness of a mobster. Annie is embarrassed about her standard of living, and sets up the allusion to her daughter that Annie is a lady of the upper class. She writes letters on the stationery of a classy hotel. She has set up a seemingly harmless lie that she is doing better in life than she really is. This is fine until Louise sends a letter saying she is coming home and bringing a suitor and his father Count Romero. Now Annie finds herself in a bind. She must cover up this lie so that her daughter can keep her lover. Annie fears that if she does not live up to the life style, which her daughter thinks she has, everything will fall apart.


Her penniless friends talk Dave the Dude into setting Annie up in a room at the classy hotel so that she can go on her lie. Dave who is a bad guy in the sight of the law has a touch of good in him. He believes that he can help what he sees as a fairy tale to come to pass. A parallel to Cinderella Dave becomes the fairy godmother that helps dear Annie to live her dream. But this is not a simple answer. Now that Annie has her classy suite in the hotel, there is more of the story that she has to fulfill. The story follows a perfect line of events. We see the objective of Annie and the obstacles that she must over come. The action just starts rising from the moment she gets the letter from the hotel manager. She has to find her second husband, and even throw a party for the Count before they leave.


The point in the movie where I was on the edge of my seat was when we were waiting for Dave and his gangster friends to arrive at this classy party. Leave it to the police to draw out what seems to be a simple gathering to put a stop to the gangster’s sinister plans. What a way to bring the movie to a climax. The resolution finally comes after a little added suspense of Dave being arrested, almost. The party goes on with a few unexpected guests; the police chief and even the governor play in to this fairy tale to help it have a happy ending. And the story ends on what could be a happy note, an end to a string of lies, but then again it could be just the beginning of a happily ever after marriage.


Frank Capra’s Cinderella Story

Author: Ron Oliver ( from Forest Ranch, CA
21 February 2000

An old apple seller on Broadway panics when she learns her daughter is returning to New York City with her European fiancé. What will happen when the girl discovers her mother is not a high society matron, as she supposes her to be? Only a notorious racketeer can help her become a LADY FOR A DAY.

May Robson is superb in this early Frank Capra film. She steals every scene she’s in as Apple Annie, the harridan sidewalk vendor. This was a plum role & Miss Robson knew how to exploit it to the limit. Glenda Farrell & Guy Kibbee are both excellent in supporting roles – she as a nightclub owner and he as an eccentric judge . Walter Connolly is fun as a suspicious Spanish Count. Warren William is good as Dave the Dude, the criminal boss who comes to Annie’s aid because her apples are good luck for him.


Halliwell Hobbes is all proper British decorum as Annie’s borrowed butler. Acerbic Ned Sparks & dense Nat Pendleton are both enjoyable as the Dude’s henchmen. That’s an uncredited Ward Bond as the mounted policeman at the very beginning of the film.

This film is bursting with charm.

” May Robson Is Splendid As Apple Annie “

Author: PamelaShort from Canada
15 December 2013
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you enjoy the film Pocketful Of Miracles, which was the remake of this film, I highly recommend watching Lady for a Day the original. I found a copy of a 1933 review for this charming film and it states ‘ a picture which evoked laughter and tears from an audience at the first showing,’ and it still hits the mark perfectly today as it did in 1933. May Robson was a superb choice to play Apple Annie and her performance is extremely splendid, she completely embodies the character of Annie, thus making her real and believable. Probably May Robson’s best performance ever. No one could have done a better job of playing the lovable old Judge Blake than the wonderful Guy Kibbee. Warren William adequately handles the role of Dave the Dude along with Glenda Farrell as Missouri Martin. A host of excellent supporting actors all give sufficient performances to make this amusing sentimental tale of the grey-haired Cinderella a very pleasurable and entertaining film. There are many fine synopsis written for this film, however Lady for a Day must be seen to be fully appreciated. This is also a terrific example of Frank Capra’s best work and one of the finest films from the 1930s.


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