Aple 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. Now her daughter plans to return to America with her new fiance and his father, a member of Spain’s aristocracy. Annie must pretend to be wealthy or the count will not give his blessing. She gets the help of Dave the Dude, who considers Annie a good luck charm, to obtain a luxury apartment and entertain the visitors, but things don’t always go quite as planned…
May Robson plays Apple Annie, a slatternly Broadway apple peddler. Annie has a curious setup whereby she is able to finagle other street merchants and beggars to pony up part of their weekly earnings to her–yet she never seems to spend any of the money on herself. This is because Annie has a daughter named Louise (Jean Parker), who has been supported in luxury all her life by her mother. Louise has no idea who Annie really is; so far as she knows, her mother is Mrs. E. Worthington Manville, a Manhattan society matron. When Louise sends Annie a letter telling her that she’s become engaged to a young Spanish nobleman named Carlos (Barry Norton), Annie is aghast: once Louise brings her fiance to New York, the jig will be up. Coming to the rescue is high-rolling gambler Dave the Dude (Warren William), who considers Annie his good-luck charm. With the help of his nightclub-thrush girlfriend Missouri Martin (Glenda Farrell), Dave arranges a huge society reception for Louise — and a complete fashion makeover for Annie. To do this, a few strong-arm methods are required, notably the kidnaping of several society reporters; also, it’s necessary to pass off down-and-out Judge Blake (Guy Kibbee) as Annie’s well-connected husband. Lady for a Day is the film with which Frank Capra hoped to enter the Big Leagues by taking home a shelf-full of Academy Awards. His subsequent embarrassment at the 1934 Oscar ceremonies has now passed into Hollywood legend, but he made up for this debacle with his Oscars sweep for It Happened One Night. Lady for a Day was remade by Capra as 1961’s Pocketful of Miracles, with Bette Davis as Apple Annie.