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Pennies from Heaven Academy Award Nomination! Academy Award Nomination! Academy Award Nomination! 

By N.F. Mendoza

Steve Martin plays Arthur, a '30s-era traveling sheet-music salesman whose marriage is bleak and who embarks on a fateful affair with a teacher (an amazing Bernadette Peters). Arthur's dreary world is juxtaposed with Busby Berkeley-styled musical production numbers that showcase Martin's and Peters's versatility. Arthur's world is desperate, sad, and only the more so when directly compared to the musical numbers. But it does work and it is affecting.

This dark, yet simultaneously ebullient film written by Dennis Potter is capable of presenting such polar-opposite visuals and emotion. Until this film, Martin was best known for his comedic albums, and for 1979's The Jerk. In other words, Pennies' disappointing box office can be accredited to audiences' inability to accept a dark Martin in the early 1980s. If Martin's dancing ability comes as a surprise, an even greater revelation is Christopher Walken in a sexy stripping tap-dancing number. Bob Hoskins played Arthur in the 1978 British miniseries of the same name.

Academy Awards

Pennies from Heaven received Academy Award nominations for Writing (Best Screenplay based on material from another medium; Dennis Potter), Costume Design (Bob Mackie), and Sound (Michael J. Kohut, Jay M. Harding, Richard Tyler, Al Overton).

 

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Your Memories Shared!

"I first saw this when it was aired repeatedly on TV over Christmas of 1983. At first I was put off by its vulgarity, which seemed out-of-place given its 1930's setting. I thought this was just typical 1980's pandering. Then I realized that real life was extremely vulgar back then; I had been misled by the white-washed movies of the '30's. Which is "Pennies From Heaven"'s whole point! A very emotionally powerful movie, it disturbed me greatly. I had to watch it many times before it became a movie again for me; until then it was like a real-life experience. Steve Martin's penchant for wacky comedy just made his situations in this movie all the more jarring. A lavish, heartless yet somehow uplifting masterpiece."

--Dr. Weil



 

FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at Amazon.com - try eBay (see links below)Rated RNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Herbert Ross

Stars: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Christopher Walken, Jessica Harper, Vernel Bagneris, John McMartin, Jay Garner, Tommy Rall

Released: December 11, 1981

Availability: DVD VHS


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