"I'll never forget you for this, dude"
Apple Annie is in a tough spot. Her daughter Louise is coming to see her in New York, with a fiance in tow, and her fiance's father, for a visit. What Louise doesn't know is that her mother is no longer walking in society circles, and has been reduced to selling apples in the street. It turns out Louise's father-in-law to-be is a Spanish Count, coming out to check the family before passing his approval.
Annie scrambles to avoid humiliation - not just for her, but her daughter too. Shunned by society, she ends up getting assistance from the local mobster, Dave the Dude - yes, that's what everyone calls him, and this is a 1933 movie. Sometimes, it's My Dear Dude, or simply Mr. Dude. This, some 60+ years before The Big Lebowski. Regardless, this Dude sets Annie up in a fancy apartment, with an appropriate husband and butler to fill out the household.
And so begins this progenitor to at least half the sitcom episodes in recent history. The lies grow bigger, and Dude and company have to go further out of their way to maintain the illusion. A background plot involves the city's search for several society reporters who have "disappeared" because they started poking around the Count.
This film gives me pause to think about why a story works and why it doesn't. If Lady for a Day were to be made now, the screen would likely be populated with fools and buffoons. The real charm of old films - at least the ones that were done well - is in the characters. But imagining a straight adaptation, line-by-line, and with actors just as good or better, I fear what a modern version would look like. In 1933, it belies a certain innocence - in 2004, we'd have the weight of every cynical crime film pressing down on the credibility of the story.
The ending is tied up in a little bow, perhaps a little too nearly, but this is a Frank Capra film, after all. It doesn't linger, doesn't force us to consider ramifications or deeper meaning. A pleasant enough comedy to fill a short amount of time. There's nothing critical in film development here, but it's a fun, charming tale that shouldn't be passed up.
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