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Herbert Ross' "Pennies From Heaven"
March 7, 2012 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Pennies from Heaven is the most emotional movie musical I've ever seen. It's a stylized mythology* of the Depression which uses the popular songs of the period as expressions of people's deepest longings - for sex, for romance, for money, for a high good time...there was never a second when I wasn't fascinated* by what was happening on the screen. - Pauline Kael (* SPOILERS)
posted by Trurl (27 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
The film was based on a 1978 BBC television drama.
posted by ovvl at 7:02 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I got a promotional record they put out for this movie in my collection, its actually quite cool with clips of Steve Martins other works as well.
posted by wheelieman at 7:09 PM on March 7, 2012


God, how I love this movie. The second link in the post really nails it when describing the movie as a horror film.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:09 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen Pennies from Heaven, but its director, Dennis Potter, wrote and directed what I think is the finest bit of television I've ever seen: The Singing Detective.
posted by QuakerMel at 7:14 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


oops. I see now that the Pennies from Heaven with Steve Martin isn't the Dennis Potter version.
posted by QuakerMel at 7:17 PM on March 7, 2012


I'm postponing watching the original series with Bob Hoskins until I have time to do it justice. I'm postponing watching the Steve Martin Hollywood remake until sometime after that, or never, which ever comes first. Or second. I like Steve Martin as a person and a comedic innovator, but find his films more than a bit thin; based on that and everything heard and read, I'd rather come to the material firsthand than second.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:18 PM on March 7, 2012


> the finest bit of television I've ever seen: The Singing Detective

Seconded. Anyone who hasn't seen The Singing Detective (the original miniseries—schew the US film remake!) must do so immediately. I saw it first run in my early teens and some of its scenes and characters (and songs!) are forever etched into my brain. Michael Gambon has never been better.
posted by hot soup girl at 7:32 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thirded.

The Singing Detective might be the best TV drama ever made. Might be. (I go back and forth with Deadwood, myself.) But there's no question in my mind that Michael Gambon's lead performance is the best acting I've ever seen on a screen. Watching him play Marlowe, I feel humble and grateful: it's so human, so complex and vulnerable and pitiless, so clever, and -- bonus -- so unbelievably fucking rangy and technically impressive, that it almost distracts from how good everything else about the series is.

I checked Pennies (the miniseries) out from the library a while back but couldn't find time to watch it -- fatherhood and all. This post has reminded me I need to rectify that mistake. Thanks!

(p.s. Anyone seen Blackeyes, Karaoke, or Cold Lazarus? Should I?)
posted by waxbanks at 7:38 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have two things to say about this being the best movie ever.

#1: Christopher Walken striptease.

#2: I will forever ache for Bernadette Peters. :'(
posted by cmoj at 7:47 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fourthed.

I've seen Karaoke and Cold Lazarus. They played on KQED around the time that Potter died. They're interesting, but they don't have the psychological depth and emotional nuance of The Singing Detective.

Potter's version of Pennies is good, but it's still a warm up for Detective.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:51 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amazing. I must have seen this when I was 8 or 9 but for twenty-mumble years I've assumed I dreamed the whole thing. My soft spot for Bernadette Peters gets softer every year.
posted by mochapickle at 8:01 PM on March 7, 2012


Gawd.... I had to watch that movie a bunch of times for a postmodernism class. I have to totally disagree -- I think that movie is terrible.
posted by ph00dz at 8:22 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So glad this is not about Showgirls 2: Pennies from Heaven
posted by munchingzombie at 8:30 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I spent my childhood wanting to be Bernadette Peters, and this movie was a large reason why.

(Note - I am still not Bernadette Peters, at least not according to her latest restraining order.)
posted by dotgirl at 8:54 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


George_Spiggott

I like Steve Martin in pennies from heaven. He brings some innocent sappiness to the role. I also liked Steve Martin as Dr. Hfuhruhurr too. But that's a different movie
posted by mattoxic at 9:26 PM on March 7, 2012


Fifth! And thanks for the reminder, time to watch it again. Yummy.

What was it? "I used to live for the good will of honorable men and the love of good women. Now I live for the next cigarette."

Something like that. So much that was memorable there, on so many levels.

Sublime.
posted by emmet at 9:34 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Singing Detective might be the best TV drama ever made.

GBH, starring Michael Palin, runs a close second.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:34 PM on March 7, 2012


I know I saw the movie when it came out, but I really don't remember anything about it other than my disappointment at the time that it wasn't "The Jerk Part 2". I'll have to watch it all again.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:38 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone seen Blackeyes, Karaoke, or Cold Lazarus? Should I?

Better off looking for all Potter's pre-Singing Detective work IMO. Blue Remembered Hills, Blade on the Feather and Cream in my Coffee are all far more successful works than Blackeyes. Cold Lazarus etc..

GBH, starring Michael Palin, runs a close second.


Yeah, everything by Alan Bleasdale is worth checking out.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:20 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The advice of McDermott, P., is correct. Blackeyes is a huge embarrassment, Cold Lazarus is bearable. The Singing Detective is peak Potter. Don't miss it. Second place is Pennies from Heaven. If you've only seen the Hollywood version of this last, do yourself a favour.
posted by Wolof at 11:41 PM on March 7, 2012


I'm not going to say introducing me to something mentioned in this thread is THE reason I fell in love with the dude who shares my bed. But just because he already knows it's on the short list as A reason.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:25 AM on March 8, 2012


I'm postponing watching the Steve Martin Hollywood remake until sometime after that, or never, which ever comes first.

My sincerest condolences. :(
posted by fairmettle at 3:45 AM on March 8, 2012


I have to admit I've never understood the love for this movie. It's boring, and there are a lot of extremely bad acting and directing choices. On the other hand, I never understood the, "A serious movie starring an actor I consider a comedian? MY BRAIN EXPLODE!" reaction either.
posted by kyrademon at 4:07 AM on March 8, 2012


I really enjoyed this film, got the soundtrack (always was a fan of depression-era popular music) and recommended both to others, and was always taken aback by the bad reviews. It underscored in a shockingly vivid way the contrast between the ultra-cheerful "keep looking up" tunes and the bleak, harsh world of the 30s.

Great use of lip-dubbing (something pretty new at that time), and a wonderful cast.

And that Chris Walken number is still one of my all-time favorite pieces of film ever.

Thanks for posting.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:00 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I spent my childhood wanting to be Bernadette Peters, and this movie was a large reason why.

(Note - I am still not Bernadette Peters, at least not according to her latest restraining order.)

posted by dotgirl

Suddenly your screenname makes a whole lot of sense to me. [scroll down to first color photo of Peters and read caption, for the uninitiated]
posted by hippybear at 8:45 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm postponing watching the Steve Martin Hollywood remake until sometime after that, or never, which ever comes first. Or second...

Please don't do that.

The Hollywood version is an excellent interpretation of Dennis Potter's miniseries, just in a different format. Herbert Ross was an inspired director, and Chris Walken's and Steve Martin's dancing talents are really quite stunning.
posted by ovvl at 4:53 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


'The Singing Detective' was Dennis Potter's masterpiece. While not quite as fantastic, 'Lipstick on Your Collar' is mostly about "a small group of foreign affairs analysts who find their quiet existence disrupted by the Suez Crisis"... (and some other stuff).
posted by ovvl at 5:04 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


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