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With the help of a talking freeway billboard, a "wacky weatherman" tries to win the heart of an English newspaper reporter, who is struggling to make sense of the strange world of early-90s Los Angeles.
Richard E. Grant
In Chicago during the 1930s depression, sheet music salesman Arthur Parker is trying to sell his products, but it's not easy to convince unwilling music store owners to buy them. Although he's already married to the somewhat drab Joan, when he meets school teacher Eileen in a music store, he falls in love with her. Written by
Much has already been written here saying positive things about Pennies From Heaven, but the best reason for the excellence of the film lies in the fact that the screenplay was written by Dennis Potter. I give the film a 9 and the BBC series a 10+++. There is so much more to this story than can be told in a single film.
Potter wrote what I consider the two most brilliant series ever on television, Pennies From Heaven starring Bob Hoskins and The Singing Detective starring Michael Gambon. Both were dark films with more than their share of irony. Potter interjected popular music of the eras into the story lines in their original versions lip-synced by the actors. These films aren't for casual viewers. You need to keep your brain attached and operating all the time, so smart is Potter's writing. Those of us who make the effort are rewarded with stories of sheer genius.
The jump from England in the BBC mini-series to the US in the films works better than I would have imagined. I give all the credit to the producers who had the good sense to have Potter do the screenplays for both films. They are translated to a similar mood and setting and the music is well integrated. I think the adaptation of The Singing Detective is more like the BBC version because the numbers aren't so overproduced as in Pennies From Heaven. On the other hand, the cast of Pennies is a powerhouse of musical talent with Bernadette Peters and Christopher Walken and the surprisingly good Steve Martin. With lesser talent in both the writing and acting the big production numbers would have overwhelmed the story.
Watch the US films first and then follow them up with the BBC versions. Make the intellectual investment and reap your rewards. These BBC series are brilliant. If you need more mental stimulation after these two series have boosted your IQ, try to hunt down Lipstick On Your Collar. This is a later Dennis Potter BBC series based on what turned out to be the "final straw" in the fall of the British Empire, the loss of Egypt and the Suez Canal to a considerably out manned and out gunned Egyptian army. This, too, could work as a film (obviously not translated to the US), but only if Dennis Potter could be reincarnated to do the screenplay.
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