Arthur, a sheet music salesman, has an ear for the hit tunes, but nobody will trust it. And his imagination often bursts into full song, building musical numbers around the greatest ... See full summary »
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
Grand Canyon revolved around six residents from different backgrounds whose lives intertwine in modern-day Los Angeles. At the center of the film is the unlikely friendship of two men from ... See full summary »
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
When asked in Rolling Stone about the film's box-office failure, Steve Martin said: "I'm disappointed that it didn't open as a blockbuster and I don't know what's to blame, other than it's me and not a comedy. I must say that the people who get the movie, in general, have been wise and intelligent; the people who don't get it are ignorant scum." See more »
In the classroom, a modern Canadian flag can be seen. It wasn't designed until 1964. See more »
Has it been over a decade since a really good movie musical has come out? "Evita" is an extended music video; and "The Bodyguard" is a stale idea from the seventies that Whitney Houston was expected to salvage with her singing. When you look back, the movie musical of recent note has taken shelter in the imagination of the animated film industry. (Disney put out almost all of the them.) But for a good musical with real actors, I can only remember movies like Jonathan Demme's "Stop Making Sense" which is more a concert movie than a musical; "Bizet's Carmen" which is more filmed opera; and "Amadeus," and that's going back more than fifteen years.
Where are the talents that could create new musical happenings in the movies? I'm not a fan of hip-hop or rap, and there's probably enough music videos playing the stuff to fill miles of film. But its place in big screen movies is ancillary--part of the score, or a director's afterthought. If there is a movie musical that suggests what possibilities the right people with a good idea and the talent can draw from the tradition, it's "Pennies from Heaven."
This is a stunning work of movie art. To find musical numbers this evocative, you need to go back to something like "Top Hat." It's a supernal pleasure just recalling Vernel Bagneris slow-dancing in a shower of scintillating tokens or how surprised I was at the dexterity of Christopher Walken's hoofing or how close to Steve Martin's Arthur I felt when he opens his mouth and out pops Connie Boswell's haunting refrain.
I cannot deny that I find the "reality" Dennis Potter has created jarring, and by the time, Arthur paints rings around his revolted wife Joan's nipples, you feel director Herbert Ross ("Goodbye, Mr. Chips") should have spared Joan--and us--this indignity with a more discreet camera setup. If their point is to slap us back to reality after a wonderful flight of fancy, it needs to be more pointed and funnier. It's not, and some people find the lurid aspects of Potter's creations insulting. It may explain why this movie was a flop at the box office. Maybe it was too coarse and too precious all at once.
But when Ken Adams can pull together some of the most serviceably beautiful sets ever to grace a movie; when Bob Mackie pulls out all reserves and furnishes the cast with some of the most sumptuous costumes they'll ever wear; when Marvin Hamlisch makes bright, smart choices of music memorabilia; when the incomparable Gordon Willis creates the kinds of visions that leave you glued to the screen; why quibble? The state of the musical may be to some on its last breath, but with "Pennies from Heaven" to look back on, it seems to be saying "All is not lost." If the right people come together, there are wonderful things to imagine on the horizon.
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