Christmas Movies I

film 3 of 16

Lady for a Day

Film Review by Dean Duncan Mar 23, 2015

A lot of these movies end on Christmas day, which isn’t the same as being a Christmas movie. They affirm/exploit the fact that Christmas is an easy and obvious symbol of all sorts of other plenitudes. We’re invested, and then they proceed to have their way with us. Filmmakers!

Mind you, Lady for a Day makes up for all of its manipulations. The Christmas climax is stirring, and affecting, because the whole wise-cracking, Runyonesque setting is so well-established. Director Frank Capra has really hit his stride here, as has his writer-collaborator Robert Riskin. They’ll be embarking on a really remarkable, truly important run of films in these next few years. Some of those—1934, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1941—are much more famous (or notorious) than this one. But Lady for a Day is just as good, and its relative unfamiliarity may even make it preferable.

The Utopian conclusion to this whole concoction may be preposterous, but it’s neither dumb nor naive. Fairytale of New York: the Depression is the dark forest, and charitable, class-collapsing collectivism keeps the wolves at bay. A number of H-wood luminaries will someday, soon, be reaping the whirlwind for such relatively innocent expressions of sweet, semi-ideological aspiration. Call the House Un-American Activities Committee!

Starring, William, Robson, & Mr. Sparks