7.0/10
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37 user 6 critic

One Foot in Heaven (1941)

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

Director:

Irving Rapper

Writers:

Casey Robinson (screen play), Hartzell Spence (from the book by)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Fredric March ... William Spence
Martha Scott ... Hope Morris Spence
Beulah Bondi ... Mrs. Lydia Sandow
Gene Lockhart ... Preston Thurston
Elisabeth Fraser ... Eileen Spence
Harry Davenport ... Elias Samson
Laura Hope Crews ... Mrs. Preston Thurston
Grant Mitchell ... Clayton Potter
Moroni Olsen ... Dr. John Romer
Frankie Thomas ... Hartzell Spence
Jerome Cowan ... Dr. Horrigan
Ernest Cossart ... John E. Morris
Nana Bryant ... Mrs. Morris
Carlotta Jelm Carlotta Jelm ... Eileen Spence
Peter Caldwell Peter Caldwell ... Hartzell Spence
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Storyline

In the early twentieth century, William Spence and Hope Morris Spence are a Methodist minister and his wife. From Central Canada, William forwent his medical school education in Toronto to become a minister, much to the chagrin of Hope's well off parents of Stratford, Ontario. Regardless of the unknowns of their first posting in rural Iowa, the only posting available, Hope married William in 1904. The adjustment to their new life was initially more difficult for Hope, especially their new poor economic standing and having their life not wholly being their own but rather that of their congregation, as William had the focus of this decision on which to drive his purpose. Their life over the next twenty years or so is presented, which eventually includes three children and they being constantly on the move as William gets assigned from one parish to another across the United States. That life is largely characterized by William having a strong mindset, but who will admittedly change his ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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!

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

1 November 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Con un pie en el cielo See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film's earliest documented telecasts took place in Tucson Friday 27 July 1956 on KDWI (Channel 9), in Cincinnati Monday 30 July 1956 on WKRC (Channel 12), in both Los Angeles and Bellingham WA Tuesday 11 September 1956 on KNXT (Channel 2) and on KVOS (Channel 12), and in Albuquerque Sunday 27 September 1957 on KOAT (Channel 7); it first aired in Phoenix Sunday 18 November 1956 on KVAR (Channel 12), in Portland OR Saturday 22 December 1956 on KOIN (Channel 6), and in Boston Tuesday 25 December 1956 on WBZ (Channel 4). See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

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 »

Connections

Referenced in A Coy Decoy (1941) See more »

Soundtracks

The Church's One Foundation
(uncredited)
Music by Samuel Wesley
Words by Samuel Stone
Sung by the church choir, played on the carillon at the end, and occasionally incorporated into the score
See more »

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User Reviews

A World That Is Gone Forever.
19 January 2003 | by lrrapSee 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.


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