EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (director: Norman Z. McLeod; screenwriters: from the novel "The Peacock's Feather"by Katherine Leslie Moore/Jo Swerling/story by William Rankin; cinematographer: Robert Pittack; editor: John Rawlins; music: Johnny Burke/Howard Jackson/Arthur Johnston/Louis Silvers/William Grant Still/John Scott Trotter; cast: Bing Crosby (Larry Poole), Madge Evans (Susan Sprague), Edith Fellows (Patsy Smith), Louis Armstrong (Henry), Donald Meek (Gramps), John Gallaudet (J.C. Hart), William Stack (Welfare Boss), Nana Bryant (Miss Howard); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Emanuel Cohen; Columbia; 1936)|
|"Trifle about a
with a heart of gold."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This musical dramedy is based on the 1913 novel "The Peacock's Feather" by Katherine Leslie Moore. Director Norman Z. McLeod ("Horse Feathers"/"Alice in Wonderland"/"It's a Gift") doesn't do much with this slight Hollywood hokum musical, but the crooning of star Bing Crosby, a big radio star at the time, especially his version of the title song, keeps things fairly respectable. The other treat has Louis Armstrong perform "Skeleton in the Closet" with Lionel Hampton on the drums, giving the black performer a starring role for the first-time in a mainstream film. The breezy Depression-era film effectively uses poverty as a background for its trifle about a penniless troubadour with a heart of gold.
While the lute-playing
drifter Larry Poole (Bing Crosby) is in the slammer on
murderer J. C. Hart (John Gallaudet) before going to
the electric chair
gives him a letter to deliver to the Smith family of
when he shortly gets released (why Bing is on Death
Row is never
explained!). Upon delivering the letter, the easy
going Larry learns
that the precocious waif Patsy (Edith
Fellows) lives with her good-natured grandpa (Donald
Meeks), and that
Hart feels remorseful that he killed her father and
his hideaway house in Middletown. Larry helps the
move into the house after they're dispossessed from
digs. It turns out the locals think the spooky house
is haunted, but
Larry convinces the other two that the free house is
too good a deal to
pass on. Prim welfare social worker Susan Sprague
(Madge Evans) frets
over Patsy being truant and that
her men caretakers have no income to support her,
and threatens to send
her to the orphanage unless a way to support the
child can be arranged.
Patsy talks the men into opening up a restaurant/nightclub called
dinners and musical entertainment courtesy of Bing and
Predictably a romance materializes between the social
worker and the
singer, as well as many problems with the restaurant
that Larry must
solve (such as neglecting to get a proper license for
the café and chicken thefts).
The sentimental genial
is too lightweight and standard to be anything but a
REVIEWED ON 3/5/2010 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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