Oddly enough, it was Capra himself who pulled Lady for a Day from circulation, so that it wouldn’t be compared to his 1961 remake, Pocketful of Miracles. (The same thing happened to Capra’s Broadway Bill, the film that followed It Happened One Night: it wound up buried and neglected in Paramount’s library when he remade it for that studio as Riding High.) Because no studio owned the picture, it wasn’t cared for, and the original negative disappeared.
Timing is everything: the belief that It’s a Wonderful Life was in the public domain enabled so many people to broadcast it and sell videos that it became a permanent part of the public consciousness in the 1970s and 80s. I remember channel-surfing one Christmas eve and finding it playing on four different cable channels! If only that had been true for Lady for a Day.
This Depression-era fable still resonates because Capra and Riskin allow us to indulge in a wish-fulfillment fairy tale. They ask us to believe that anybody, from a beggar to a governor, has some good in him, and will do the right thing when given the opportunity.
The original DVD release of Lady for a Day was a good, sharp transfer of Frank Capra’s 35mm print, with all of its inherent wear and tear intact. For the new release, video wizards at ADS (Advanced Digital Services) have gone through it frame by frame, repairing tears and flaws, removing dirt and scratches, and best of all, adjusting the contrast so that Joseph Walker’s luminous photography looks the way it originally did, with true blacks and whites, and every shade of gray in-between. Walker was a master and it’s a shame to see any of his films looking less than perfect.
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