At the beginning of the movie, William Spence (Fredric March) announces he has been "called" to the church and will become a pastor in the Methodist Church. His soon-to-be mother-in-law, Mrs. Norris (Nana Bryant)), replies that she would have preferred that he'd joined the Episcopal Church. At that time, in Canada, the dominant church was the Church of England, not the Episcopal Church. That is predominantly a US institution born out of the American Revolution. See more »
[to his son, Hartzell]
A pastor's family are in a special category. We are uh... Well, It's as if we walked a sort of tightrope. Balancing with one foot on earth and one foot already in heaven.
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For those who are cynical about the religious life, here's a movie which ought to put some of that cynicism to rest. "One Foot in Heaven" is the true story of a Methodist preacher and his family, and it rings true, not just for the humanity Frederic March brings to his role as the preacher, but for the situations and characters that many of us, regardless of creed, will easily relate to. My dad used to say, A church is its people. I think One Foot in Heaven is a perfect illustration of this truth. Though this is a story about a preacher, we aren't preached at. There's a wonderful scene, with the preacher gently urging his agnostic doctor to start coming to church. He doesn't beat him over the head with a Bible but tries a more "humanist" approach.
Someone else has compared One Foot in Heaven with It's a Wonderful Life. Another film to compare is Going My Way. In fact, One Foot in Heaven and Going My Way were released just a year apart. There are story similarities, like the building of new churches (The Bishop's Wife is another example), but it's interesting to see how religion in the community is seen respectively through Protestant and Catholic lenses.
Then, there's the final scene. In some ways it's corny, but it still moves me. It hearkens to a time when religion wasn't sectarian but seamlessly interwoven in community life, unselfconsciously and unostentatiously. It was before the battle lines between religionists and secularists were drawn, when America had a "civil" religion. Alas, a time past.
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