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One Foot in Heaven (1941)

Approved | | Biography, Drama | 1 November 1941 (USA)
Episodic look at the life of a minister and his family as they move from one parish to another.



(screen play), (from the book by)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
William Spence
Hope Morris Spence
Mrs. Lydia Sandow
Preston Thurston
Elisabeth Fraser ...
Eileen Spence
Elias Samson
Mrs. Preston Thurston
Clayton Potter
Dr. John Romer
Hartzell Spence
Dr. Horrigan
John E. Morris
Mrs. Morris
Carlotta Jelm ...
Eileen Spence
Peter Caldwell ...
Hartzell Spence


Episodic look at the life of a minister and his family as they move from one parish to another.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Folks, meet a grand FATHER! He's the affable, laffable head of the most delightful family that ever stepped out of America's screens...into America's hearts!


Biography | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 November 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Con un pie en el cielo  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Raymond Massey was author Hartzell Spence's choice to play his father. See more »


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 »


William Spence: [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.
See more »


Referenced in Whistling in Dixie (1942) See more »


Yankee Doodle
Played when the doughboys ship out
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User Reviews

A World That Is Gone Forever.
19 January 2003 | by (Whiting, Indiana) – See all my reviews

"One Foot in Heaven" is quite simply one of the most beautiful films that I have encountered. A mainstream film of this sort would NEVER even be considered today; it seems even a bit tame for 1940.

And yet, the world was vastly different then, and the gentle,loving tone of this film reflects a sort of "old-time" morality that seems hopelessly lost today.

This was a major Warner Brothers release and, with Hal Wallis as producer, one expects and gets a very high quality film which lovingly recreates scenes from the life of an ordinary Methodist minister during the first 40 years of the 20th century. No earth-shaking events here--just the day-to-day trials and tribulations, the simple joys and heartaches, the small-town politics and frustrations that reveal humanity in all of its imperfections.

I am amazed that Frederic March is sometimes regarded as a dull actor; he was the epitome of subtle, honest realism, and he carries the narrative of this film in an amazing way, tender, gracious, humorous, a bit stodgy--but always willing to "bend" when necessary, resourceful, loving, and above all, very human.

The movie is filled with an array of Hollywood's best character actors, and the extremely detailed sets, costumes, etc really serve as a "window" to another time and place in our American past.

Max Steiner's extremely pious score is almost a bit much at times, but it nonetheless adds a reverent strength to the proceedings.

And then, there is the final scene, one of the most moving and unique in any film that I know. Once again, the ultimate destination of the plot is nothing earth-shaking---but the concept and staging of the last scene is really remarkable. A simple, old-time street on a gorgeous spring day, the townspeople who have come to know and love their minister all stopping their work and joining the procession through the street as they follow the sounds of the carillon from the new church. Martha Scott, Frankie Thomas, Gene Lockhart, Beulah Bondi, Harry Davenport, Laura Hope Crews--many of whom have locked horns with Mr. March during the course of the film, now join together in the dappled sunlit street, finally arriving at the church where they all lift their voices together in the moving hymn "The Church's One Foundation"... as we see Mr. March himself seated at the carillon, struggling to continue playing it through the tears streaming down his face....

I think Turner Classics has a print of this film (I saw and taped it off of Chicago's PBS station some years ago). Try to see it; like the world it represents, this beautiful film may also disappear forever.

37 of 40 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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