Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Apple Nut Bread

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
Starring: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Lee Pace, Ciaran Hinds
(PG-13, 92 min.)

"I am not bound to win; I am bound to be true." Abraham Lincoln

Though it masquerades as a superficial thirties screwball comedy with a little bit of French sex farce thrown in for good measure, there is an inner core of substance in this froth of a film. Kind of like that apple hiding under the sticky sweet caramel coating.

Most of the froth comes from the calculating but ditzy Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), a strangely innocent seductress juggling three beaus in her quest for fame. No one ever looked more comfortable in a silky peach period negligee, a pert padded shoulder suit with matching hat rakishly askew, not to mention a fur coat worn against her naked flesh.

Miss Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) couldn’t be more different, the somewhat dour daughter of a vicar, down and out after a series of disasters as a hired governess, and desperate for a job when she arrives at Delysia’s doorstep. Thinking she is to be once again a governess, Miss Pettigrew sweeps upstairs and whisks off the covers from a body she expects to be a sleepy-eyed youngster needing some encouragement to see the light of day. Instead she finds Phil (Tom Payne) a fully-grown and not particularly modest adult male specimen au naturel under the silky sheets, he being the playboy son of a West End producer, and Delysia’s best chance at landing the lead. 

But Nick, the oily owner of the sophisticated flat as well as the club where Delysia sings is about to arrive and Phil must be whisked down the lift just as Nick trudges his way up the stairs. More than a little suspicious after seeing Phil’s flamboyant car parked outside, Nick is definitely testy when his eyes land on a half-smoked cigar in the living room. Miss Pettigrew surprises even herself when she lights the stogie, puffs long and deep, and makes a few salty comments about her smoking the thing anywhere she “damn well pleases.” 

Delysia is so overjoyed at the swift rescue, she whisks her new “social secretary” away to the latest lingerie show, and afterwards for a complete makeover and new wardrobe, given that mud brown melancholy is the shade of everything from Miss Pettigrew’s sensible shoes to her mousey coif. But the poor woman is so hungry after days of no food that during her facial, she actually eats the cucumber slices resting on her eyes with crunchy relish.

For a while Miss Pettigrew is so caught up in all the frivolity, enjoying herself more than she has in years, that she outdoes herself in fixing up the little deceptions that are part and parcel of the game of love played by those around her. But even if her sensible shoes have been replaced, Miss Pettigrew’s habits of mind have not, and she soon regrets her manipulations, expert as they have been. 

Part of the reason she comes back to her senses comes in the person of third beau Michael ( Lee Pace), a penniless piano player who can offer Delysia only his talent and love. And Joe (Ciaran Hinds), the darling lingerie designer sought after by hordes of fawning socialites, remembers the real world he has deserted when he meets the plain and authentic Miss Pettigrew. 

Also intruding upon this superficial world are the ominous warnings of World War II. This is London, 1939, and Hitler’s name shouts from newspaper headlines just at the edge of our focus as the bundles are thrown down on the pavement. Military planes drone overhead and more than a few air raid sirens send everyone into a temporary panic, even if they do, in the end turn out to be drills only. Only Joe and Miss Pettigrew remember the realities of the last war and know the somber events that will soon engulf them again. 

This is a period piece that transcends time and place, even though the era is expertly evoked in atmosphere and detail. It is also an optimistic little gem of a film that far outshines the cheap baubles competing with it for screen time.

Not to miss.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

Poor Miss Pettigrew. Summarily fired without any severance pay, she is quite desperate. And in a series of comic misadventures she is only tantalized by the food that almost makes it to her very hungry mouth. 

Just as she is about to taste the steaming bowl from a soup kitchen, someone bumps into her and knocks it to the ground. In Delysia’s kitchen she looks at the breakfast nut bread with longing, but events sweep her away from its rich goodness. The shimmering pastry at the lingerie show tumbles from her plate onto the polished shoes of Joe just when their conversation has begun to get interesting. Later on, when she is offered her pick of luscious canapés, the night’s events have taken away her appetite.

Finally, homeless once again, she is about to pick up a half eaten apple when the efficient street sweeper whisks it away.

Miss Pettigrew deserves better. Let’s bake a dish worthy of her – that very rich nut bread that she never got to taste. We’ll even throw in some apple slices, ours coming from a pristine one instead of the moldy one she almost gleans from the gutter. 

Yes, nut bread has substance, with a delicate sweetness just like our heroine. And it is so much better than those other rich and artificial delicacies that reflect the world around her.

Get into the London spirit and down with perfect cup of tea. And if you are really hungry, try these other wonderful English traditions, British Fried Bread and Egg or Seed Cake Drenched in Cognac.

Apple Nut Bread


  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 large apples, grated
  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup pecans,chopped fine


Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2: Grease and flour a 9" x 5" loaf pan.

Step 3: In a medium bowl, mix together the butter and sugar.

Step 4: Add the egg, sour cream and grated apples.

Step 5: In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.

Step 6: Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, stirring well.

Step 7: Stir in the finely chopped pecans.

Step 8: Bake the bread for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Recipe Source: Breakfast and Brunch Recipes. com