Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a 2008 romantic comedy film directed by Bharat Nalluri, starring Frances McDormand and Amy Adams. The screenplay by David Magee and Simon Beaufoy is based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Winifred Watson.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Miss pettigrew lives for a day.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBharat Nalluri
Written byDavid Magee
Simon Beaufoy
Based onMiss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
by Winifred Watson
Produced byNellie Bellflower
Stephen Garrett
Shashank Shambharkar
StarringFrances McDormand
Amy Adams
Lee Pace
Ciarán Hinds
Shirley Henderson
Mark Strong
CinematographyJohn de Borman
Edited byBarney Pilling
Music byPaul Englishby
Distributed byFocus Features (United States)
Momentum Pictures (United Kingdom)[1]
Release date
  • 7 March 2008 (2008-03-07) (United States)
  • 15 August 2008 (2008-08-15) (United Kingdom)
Running time
91 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$16,724,933


Set in London just prior to World War II, the film is about a middle-aged, straitlaced vicar's daughter and governess Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand), who has been fired from her fourth job. When employment agency head Miss Holt insists that she will not help her, the destitute Miss Pettigrew leaves the office with an assignment intended for a colleague, unaware that flamboyant American singer-actress Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) wants a social secretary rather than a governess.

Arriving at the luxurious apartment where Delysia is staying, Miss Pettigrew quickly discovers that the younger woman is involved with three men: penniless and devoted pianist Michael Pardue, who has just been released from prison; wealthy and controlling Nick Calderelli, who owns the nightclub where she is performing; and young theatre impresario Phil Goldman, who is in a position to cast her in the lead role in a West End play. As she tries to help Delysia sort through her various affairs, Miss Pettigrew is swept up into the world of high society. She is given a makeover by her new employer and, at a fashion show hosted by fashion maven Edythe Dubarry, she meets and feels attracted to lingerie designer Joe Blomfield, who is involved in a tempestuous relationship with Edythe.

In the course of twenty-four hours, Guinevere and Delysia become fast friends and help each other achieve their romantic destinies. After a series of complications, Delysia and Michael sail for New York aboard the Queen Mary and Miss Pettigrew is found in Victoria Station by Joe, who is convinced that she is the woman for him and has been looking for her all night, and all his life. They leave the station together, arm in arm.



Frances McDormand on location in May 2007.

In Miss Pettigrew's Long Trip to Hollywood, a bonus feature on the film's DVD release, Keith Pickering, the son of the author of the original book, Winifred Watson, reveals his mother first sold the film rights to Universal Pictures in 1939. Within the next few years, the studio developed it as a musical to star Billie Burke in the title role but, just before filming was scheduled to begin, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the project was shelved.

In 1954, Universal renewed the rights, but the property remained undeveloped. When London producer Stephen Garrett discovered the book, he sought out American producer Nellie Bellflower, who had just produced the seven-time Oscar-nominated film Finding Neverland for Harvey Weinstein.

Garrett proposed a partnership to get it set up. Bellflower brought the adaptation to executives at Focus Features, but she learned the rights still belonged to Universal, which as the parent company of Focus, allowed them to proceed with the project. Filming locations included the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in Covent Garden, Whitehall Court in Westminster, and Pimlico. Interiors were shot in the Ealing Studios.

Critical receptionEdit

As of June 2020, the film holds a 78% approval rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 150 reviews with an average rating of 6.66 out of 10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Miss Pettigrew is a breezy period comedy carried by the strong performances of Amy Adams and Frances McDormand.".[2] On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 63 out of 100, based on 27 reviews.[3]

Stephen Holden of The New York Times called the film "an example of how a little nothing of a story can be inflated into a little something of a movie with perfect casting, dexterous tonal manipulation and an astute eye and ear for detail." He praised Amy Adams, saying the "screen magic" she displays "hasn't been this intense since the heyday of Jean Arthur," and he noted Frances McDormand achieved her "metamorphosis from glum stoicism to demure radiance with impressive comic understatement."[4]

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Ruthe Stein called the film "a swell adaptation" and added, "Frothy and exuberantly entertaining – in part because of the sexual innuendoes – it's the best romantic comedy so far this year ... Director Bharat Nalluri gives Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day the patina of a film actually made in the 1930s."[5]

Todd McCarthy of Variety said of the actors, "McDormand's performance slowly builds a solid integrity, and contrasts well with Adams' more flamboyant turn, which initially accentuates Delysia's constant role playing but eventually flowers into a gratifyingly full-fledged portrayal of a woman with a past she wishes to escape. Hinds puts real feeling into his work."[6]

Box officeEdit

In its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, the film earned $2,490,942 on 535 screens, ranking No. 11 at the box office. It eventually grossed $12,313,694 in the US and Canada and $4,411,239 in other markets for a total worldwide box office of $16,724,933.[1]


The film's score was written and conducted by Paul Englishby, for which he won the ASCAP Award in 2009. Englishby also arranged and conducted three additional songs for the film:

Other songsEdit

  • "Anything Goes"
  • "Dream"
    • Sometimes referred to as "Dream (When You're Feeling Blue)", "Dream" is a jazz and pop standard with words and music written by Johnny Mercer in 1944.
    • Even though the film takes place in 1939, The Pied Pipers' 1945 recording of "Dream" can be heard playing in the background, as if on a radio, as Delysia bathes.


  1. ^ a b "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  2. ^ "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  3. ^ "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day". Metacritic. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  4. ^ Holden, Stephen (7 March 2008). "Can a Screwball Fable Have an Eye for Detail and a Heart for Fun? Discuss". The New York Times. p. E10. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  5. ^ Stein, Ruthe (7 March 2008). "Review: McDormand stars in stellar 'Pettigrew'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  6. ^ McCarthy, Todd (29 February 2008). "Review: 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day'". Variety. Retrieved 31 August 2015.

External linksEdit