Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day comes to Blu-ray restored with over 4 minutes of footage previously thought lost. Capra retained a duplicate negative in his collection with the footage intact, and this new version reinstates the additional footage left out of previous DVDs. The missing footage includes half of one scene involving the Count and his son and most of another scene in which Dave the Dude plans for the reception to be held for Apple Annie and how to instruct his cohorts to behave like society gentlemen and women. It is cause for excitement anytime lost footage is recovered and reinstated into a film from nearly 80 years ago, especially a film of this caliber. Dare we hope that a complete version of Capra’s Lost Horizon remains somewhere waiting to be discovered?
LADY FOR A DAY BLU-RAY
Studio: B2MP, Inc., distributed by Inception Media Group
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length:1 hour, 36 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English LPCM 2.0
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Dave the Dude(Warren William) is a high-ranking gangster. Apple Annie(May Robson) is a poor old woman living in squalor in New York City. These two would have nothing in common except that Annie is Dave’s good luck charm when he makes important deals. Annie writes letters often to her daughter Louise living in Spain, and Annie pretends to her daughter that she is affluent in high society. Annie’s deception seems likely to be exposed when Louise writes to Annie that she is coming to visit with her fiancé and his father, a Spanish count.
Dave the Dude comes to Annie’s rescue by cleaning up Annie and getting her the use of a tony apartment to impress the Count and his son. Dave recruits his underworld cohorts to impersonate members of high society to complete the illusion so that Annie’s daughter Louise will not have her fiancé abandon her. Of course, one lie leads to another and Dave finds himself on a slippery slope as he gets himself drawn deeper into Annie’s drama to comedic effect, all while the police make efforts to close in on Dave and his rackets.
Director Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day is populated by eccentric gangsters with colorful nicknames which is apropos for a film adapted from the short story "Madame La Gimp" by Damon Runyon(Guys and Dolls, The Lemon Drop Kid). Thus, the characters have names like Dave the Dude, Judge Henry G. Blake, Missouri Martin, Apple Annie, and even Shakespeare. The screenplay by Robert Riskin(It Happened One Night) conveys the optimism and positive expectation of human nature that is typical of a Capra film, as we see the downtrodden people of the Depression watching out for each other, even if some of that noble behavior is motivated in some part by self-interest, as it is with Dave the Dude.
Columbia borrowed some stars from Warner Brothers in casting this film, and Capra originally hoped to have James Cagney or William Powell play Dave the Dude before Warren William was cast in the role. The film was nominate for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Director, but failed to win any of these awards. Will Rogers was announcing the Academy Award winner for Best Director at the ceremony for 1933 and upon opening the envelope said "Come and get it, Frank." Capra walked halfway to the stage before realizing that the actual winner was Frank Lloyd for Cavalcade. Capra must have felt redeemed the next year when he picked up the same prize for directing It Happened One Night. Capra was obviously fond of this film since he remade it in 1961 as Pocketful of Miracles with Bette Davis and Glenn Ford.
Lady for a Day appears on Blu-Ray in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This edition was mastered in 1080p from a duplicate negative in Frank Capra’s personal collection. The restoration is excellent. Dirt and debris have been removed, and multiple splices repaired, although scratches remain evident. Grain is present but has not been so scrubbed from the image as to sacrifice detail. The gray scale is excellent and blacks are solid. The Restoration Before and After special feature demonstrates the high quality of this version.
The English lossless PCM 2.0 Audio track is more than adequate. There is some minor hiss perceptible at times which fluctuates and diminishes in intensity but never at the expense of dialogue which is always audible. The audio is exactly what one might expect in a feature film from 1933.
The special features include the following:
Introduction by Frank Capra, Jr.(0:57): Director Capra’s son introduces the film.
Commentary: Frank Capra, Jr. offers an enthusiastic and informative feature length commentary.
Restoration Before and After(4:38): This featurette offers a side-by-side comparison of the unrestored and restored footage, and really shows the high quality of this restoration.
Still Gallery: Still photos from the film may be navigated with the arrows on your remote control.
Also included is a short illustrated booklet with an essay about the film by film critic Scott Eyman.
Lady For A Day is a classic film that successfully balances between pathos and comedy. The video quality is very nice and the reinstatement of over 4 minutes of footage is a great bonus. The audio is merely adequate but still about as much as we could hope for in a 1933 feature film. Special features include the informative commentary by Frank Capra, Jr. which is recommended viewing after you have seen the film. Lady For A Day on Blu-ray is recommended for anyone who enjoys classic films. Even if you own the DVD, this is a worthy upgrade not only for the high definition image but also for the lost footage that has not been seen for many years. I had not heard of B2MP, Inc. before this release but I will be very interested to see any of their future releases of classic films if they come up to this standard.