Lady for a Day (1933)
Apple 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. With her daughter suddenly en route to America with her new fiancé and his father, a member of Spain's aristocracy, Annie must continue her pretense of wealth or the count will not give his blessing. She gets unexpected help from Dave the Dude, a well-known figure in underground circles who considers Annie his good luck charm, and who obtains for her a luxury apartment to entertain the visitors - but this uncharacteristic act of kindness from a man with a disreputable reputation arouses suspicions, leading to complications which further cause things to not always go quite as planned.
Times Square apple peddler Annie hasn't seen her daughter, Louise - who was raised in a Spanish convent - in years, but keeps in contact with her by letter. However, Annie doesn't want her beloved daughter to find out about her dowdy life, so she has claimed to be an elegant woman of high society named E. Worthington Manville. This causes a major issue when Louise sails to New York with her fiancé and his father, a count, but luck comes in the form of Dave the Dude, a gambler who thinks Annie's apples bring him luck. Dave agrees to transform Annie into the classy lady from her letters in order to get the count's blessing for the marriage, but will they manage to keep up the facade?
A gangster tries to make Apple Annie, the Times Square apple seller, a lady for a day.
- Apple Annie (May Robson) is an aging and wretched fruit seller in New York City whose daughter Louise (Jean Parker) has been raised in a Spanish convent since she was an infant. Annie has always written to her daughter that she is a member of New York's high society, named Mrs. E. Worthington Manville, residing at the Hotel Marberry.
Annie discovers her charade is in danger of being uncovered when she receives a letter from her daughter announcing that Louise is sailing to New York, with her fiancé Carlos (Barry Norton) and his father, Count Romero (Walter Connolly), a member of the Spanish aristocracy. The Count wants to meet Louise's family before giving his blessing to the marriage.
Annie nearly doesn't get the letter, as she depends on intercepting any mail she gets at the Hotel Marberry. The management of the hotel does not like her coming in there, and since there's no one named Mrs. E. Worthington Manville registered there, the mail clerk was preparing to return the letter to sender. Annie was able to get to the letter before it was taken by the postman. When she read the letter outside of the hotel, she fainted.
Among Annie's patrons are Dave the Dude, a gambling gangster who believes her apples bring him good luck, and his Dave's henchman, Happy McGuire (Ned Sparks). Dave is a well-known figure in underground circles, so when he learns that she's recently been escorted from the Hotel Marberry by the police and sent home, he sends for her. He's about to enter into a high stakes project of some sort and he wants to be sure Annie and her apples are available for luck. Dave the Dude reads the letter from Louise and sort of shrugs it off. Annie's friends ultimately persuade him to try and help. He has an associate who owns a vacant luxury apartment at the Hotel Marbury that is used to entertain visitors, and convinces him to loan the use of the apartment for several days.
Dude's girlfriend, Missouri Martin (Glenda Farrell), is a well-to-do nightclub owner who Dude asks for assistance. Missouri brings in a group of her personal assistants to do a makeover of Annie, transforming her from a dowdy street peddler to an elegant dowager. Dave also arranges for pool hustler, Henry Blake (Guy Kibbee), to pose as Annie's husband, the dignified Judge E. Worthington Manville.
The day that Louise, Carlos and Count Romero are due to arrive on a passenger ship, one of Dude's men warns him that the local newspapers are likely to be very much interested in talking to Count Romero, which means they will naturally be curious about why the Count is there and who he's meeting with. Dude decides he'd better go down to the docks himself to make sure nothing goes wrong. He positions a bunch of his men in an line to keep the news reporters away from the Count and others.
Annie and Louise have a tearful and happy reunion at the pier. Dude's men are ordered to create a diversion by starting a fight when a couple of policemen are spotted approaching. The policemen are distracted by the fight while Annie, Dude, and the others take off in their cars.
When a society reporter shows up at the Hotel Marbury, Dude and Happy escort him away before he can interview Annie or the Count. The reporter's newspaper subsequently reports him as missing. Two more society reporters suffer the same fate, after they become curious about Mrs. E. Worthington Manville, of whom they can find no public records. The newspaper editors accuse the police department of incompetence when there are no leads.
A few days later, Blake, Judge Manville, announces he is planning a gala reception for Louise, Carlos, and Count Romero before they return to Spain. Dave is not at all pleased about that. He finds himself trying to train Annie's indigent friends to represent her society friends. Meanwhile, pressure is being applied to Dave and his men by the police, who suspect that Dave may have something to do with the missing reporters. The Chief of Police was upset that his men had no leads, the Police Commissioner was upset at the Chief, the Mayor was upset at the Commissioner, and the Governor (Hobart Bosworth) was upset at the Mayor. There were threats at every level to fire their subordinate if the reporters weren't found soon.
While waiting for the guests to arrive and the reception to begin, the Count engages Blake in a discussion about Louise's dowry. That catches Blake by surprise, but he's quick on his feet and decides to take a chance by offering not only to match the Count's contribution of $50,000 to the newlyweds, but to pay the Count's share as well. The Count won't have it and instead offers to pay the entire $100,000 himself. Ultimately, the two decide to play a game of pool, with the loser agreeing to pay it all. Blake wins easily.
The police surround Missouri's club, where the gang has assembled for a final rehearsal. Consequently, they are unable to make their way over to the hotel, so Dave calls Blake to advise him of their predicament, and Annie decides it's time to confess everything to Louise and Count Romero.
Meanwhile, Dave and Happy are ordered to be taken by the Chief of Police to the Mayor's office, where the governor is attending a function. They want a resolution to the missing reporters. The Dude has a suggestion.
The governor, mayor, and their entourages unexpectedly arrive at the reception, interrupting Annie's confession to Louise and the Count, and they all approach Annie and introduce themselves to her, Louise, and the Count, tremendously impressing everyone. The reporters are rescued and ordered to say they were out on a drunk.
Annie nearly faints again, she's so shocked and relieved, happy that her daughter will soon marry into the Spanish aristocracy.