Frank Capra didn’t always have good ideas for his films, but doubtless he did when he chose to direct a movie version of a Damon Runyon story, the title of which movie is Lady for a Day (1933), with a screenplay by Robert Riskin.
There are no idealists or innocents in this Capra film. Instead we see the interesting phenomenon of small-time mobsters and a pool shark trying to help a financially poor woman—the apple-selling Apple Annie (May Robson)—fool the woman’s daughter into thinking her mother is a society lady. This is the fiction Apple Annie has maintained for years. At first the lowlifes treat their service to the old gal as something extraneous, beside the point, but later it doesn’t quite seem that way to them. Basically they are harmless lowlifes, never even roughing anyone up.
Yes, Lady for a Day has a couple of flaws, but it’s a work of a certain purity for which both Capra and Riskin are responsible. It’s one of Capra’s feel-gooders, energetic and droll but without moralism. The director worked well with his actors, the result being that May Robson is exemplary, Warren William amusingly assertive, and Guy Kibbee charming and commanding.