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Monday, January 17, 2011

Pennies from Heaven (released in 1981) - A musical film starring Steve Martin

Pennies from Heaven is a 1981 Holly wood musical adapted from the BBC drama series of the the same name by Dennis Porter. Porter was nominated for the Oscar for the “best adapted Screenplay category” eventually loosing to the acclaimed “Golden Pond”. Directed by Herbert Ross it stars Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters in the title roles.
This depression era story is about Arthur Parker, a music sheet salesman who is down in the dumps with his relationships and finances. His relationship with his wife hits rock bottom as she frigidly resists his sexual advances. Frustrated by her lack of interest he moves out to sell his music. Joan, Arthur's wife is also un-supportive of his venture to open his own record store. Arthur leaves home threatening never to return.
That fateful day he meets Eileen, a plain school teacher with whom he falls in love at first sight. Eileen leaves with out paying any attention but becomes interested when he follows her to the farm. Soon Arthur and Eileen are engaged in a relationship and he lies to her about his wife. He plays on Eileen's sympathies for a sexual relationship. But soon Arthur returns home to Joan leaving her stranded. Joan and Arthur try to make their marriage work but are frustrated about their different outlook about relationships. Arthur and Eileen on the other hand are sexually compatible with Eileen enjoying his fantasies. Joan reluctantly finances his record store venture, but even that business languishes as customers are scarce. Eileen meanwhile gets pregnant and is fired from her job. She never finds Arthur as all his addresses turns out to be a fake one.

A desperate Eileen is forced to have an abortion and soon is drawn in to prostitution by a pimp, Tom. Arthur and Joan come to terms with their incompatibility and Arthur seeks out Eileen. He finds her as a prostitute and proposition her. Soon they decide to run away to start life anew. But as luck could have it Arthur is framed for the murder of a blind girl whom he helps across a bridge and Eileen runs out on him. Arthur is sentenced to the gallows where he sings out the song “Pennies from Heaven” to underscore the shortness of life. The audience is treated to a dream ending where Arthur and Eileen wind up together.
This movie was a box office disaster even though critical acclaim was more forth coming. The elaborate song and dance routine's sort of bored the audience in-spite of credible acting performances. Steve Martin as a music salesman was appreciated, but the audiences could never accept him in a serious role especially after the success of the comic caper like “Jerk”. It was nominated for 3 Academy awards and Golden Globes. Bernadette Peters won the golden Globe for her portrayal of Eileen. The song and dance numbers are still popular and are lip synced. But still the film lacks a soul to make the audience feel an empathy for the poor sexually starved characters.
I would never recommend watching this movie, better depression era saga's are made for movie lovers.

Pennies from Heaven (released in 1981) - A musical film starring Steve Martin

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