Pennies from Heaven (1981) Poster


The "pennies" that are seen raining down from heaven were penny sized sequins. After filming, they blew out the stage door, and could be found in the corners in the streets at MGM studios for almost a year.
Steve Martin chose to do this movie rather than Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
At least four paintings are recreated as "tableaux vivants" in the film: "Hudson Bay Fur Company" (1932) and "20 Cent Movie" (1936), both by Reginald Marsh, and "New York Movie" (1939) and "Nighthawks" (1942), both by Edward Hopper. Three of the four were painted after 1934, when the movie takes place, and all depict scenes in New York, not Chicago, the setting of the movie. Turner Classic Movies uses the "Fur Company" and "Nighthawks" shots in their "Open All Night" interstitial.
Steve Martin's first ever straight dramatic non-comedy role in a major motion picture.
Second and final of two films that actors Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters made together. Their first film was The Jerk (1979) around two years earlier.
Christopher Walken's bar-top dance scene took two months of rehearsal and two days of shooting. He claims he got compliments later from fans Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
In the scene in the classroom, miniature flags of several nations are sitting on the desk. The Canadian flag, however, is inaccurate because the Red Maple Leaf flag used was only created in the 1960s and became Canada's official flag in 1965 many years after "Pennies from Heaven" took place.
The MGM studio prohibited the broadcast of the BBC's original production Pennies from Heaven (1978) for a period of ten years from when this movie was premiered. In February 1990, the BBC aired the original for the first time since 1978. This only happened because around 1989, at the direction of Alan Yentob of BBC2, producer Kenith Trodd bought back from GM the rights to for "a very inconsiderable sum".
Hollywood veteran of musicals Fred Astaire did not want the re-use of his old film footage which he was powerless to stop and as such resented the film. Astaire once said of this: "I have never spent two more miserable hours in my life. Every scene was cheap and vulgar. They don't realize that the thirties were a very innocent age, and that [the film] should have been set in the eighties - it was just froth; it makes you cry it's so distasteful."
Producer Nora Kaye once said of Steve Martin's casting: "If you just had a terrific actor, the musical numbers wouldn't come off. Steve knows how to put across the number. He's right for the part in another sense, too. In the '30s all the leading men were classic American types. But today, there are very few stars who are not ethnic - either Italian or Jewish. You kind of feel Steve is a Baptist, and that's what this story needs. He's so guileless, like a Capra hero."
Many movie posters featured a long blurb that read: "There's a world on both sides of the rainbow where songs come true and every time it rains, it rains..."
Considered the last big MGM musical of the old Hollywood era and tradition.
Apparently, actors Cheryl Campbell and Bob Hoskins, who starred in the original TV series Pennies from Heaven (1978), were upset that they were not considered for this feature film version.
The film's finale musical sequence "Glory of Love" featured 126 dancers.
Around the time that this movie was made and released, the film's two lead stars Bernadette Peters and Steve Martin were in a personal relationship.
Sets designed by Ken Adam for this movie included a dilapidated farmhouse, a smokey Chicago speakeasy, and an art decor bank, and an exact replica of a set used in MGM's earlier musical Follow the Fleet (1936).
To prepare for his dancing role in this MGM musical, Steve Martin trained in tap-dancing for six months. Christopher Walken had already trained as a dancer when younger and as such could draw on those dancing skills he had already learned.
The MGM studio forced writer Dennis Potter to buy back his copyright from the BBC, something which had cost him over US $100,000.
The nickname of Eileen (Bernadette Peters) was 'Lulu'.
Second back-to-back consecutive dance movie for director Herbert Ross whose previous film had been Nijinsky (1980).
During principal photography, actor Steve Martin refused to grant media interviews as he was too absorbed in the part he was playing.
About nine million copper colored coins were used for the musical sequence where pennies fall from heaven.
According to a 1990 edition of 'The Times' newspaper (UK), the MGM studio made writer 'Dennis Potter' re-write the script for this movie thirteen times.
Star Billing: Steve Martin (1st), Bernadette Peters (2nd), Jessica Harper (3rd), Vernel Bagneris (4th), John McMartin (5th) and 'Christopher Walken' (6th).

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