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Pennies from Heaven (1981 film)

I just watched the film Pennies from Heaven (1981) for the first time. I've heard so many mixed reviews over the past 40+ years, I never bothered to watch it. Yet it was on TCM the other night, I recorded it, and watched it this weekend. I really enjoyed it.

Steve Martin was unbelievably sexy in this movie (he was 34 when it was filmed) - I never realized how handsome and sexy he is. Too bad he always had a tee shirt on in the bedroom, or was always dressed. Bernadette Peters was perfectly cast, as was Jessica Harper (who was quite popular in movies in the early 80s). Christopher Walken was also great in his sexy strip-tease dance, but on screen too briefly. The music, the costumes, the acting , the sets - really top notch. At times it seemed to slow down a bit, but then it picked right up again before the viewer gets bored.

So why wasn't this a box office success ? Steve Martin has said it was his favorite movie to make, but audiences were not ready to see him in a 'serious movie' (his first movie was 1979's 'The Jerk'). It had a $22M budget and only pulled in $9M at the Box Office. Peters won a Golden Globe for her performance, but no Oscar nomination. (The film got three Oscar nods but none for acting, directing or 'best movie').

Any thoughts ?

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by Anonymousreply 35May 28, 2024 12:40 AM

the original series with Bob Hoskins was better

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by Anonymousreply 1May 26, 2024 7:59 PM

He was better in the new yorkers.

by Anonymousreply 2May 26, 2024 8:03 PM

I saw it years ago and I don't remember any of the scenes or plot points but I do remember it made me feel uncomfortable. There was probably something awful going on in my own life and the the movie hit some nerve but because of that I'll never see it again.

I realize this is a useless post.

by Anonymousreply 3May 26, 2024 8:14 PM

R3 at least you seem to be introspective. I like you.

by Anonymousreply 4May 26, 2024 8:17 PM

Terribly depressing. Potter didn't write feel good material!

by Anonymousreply 5May 26, 2024 8:20 PM

It’s a devastating and deeply depressing film, wholly at odds with the Reagan era. At the same time, people expected zany fun from Steve Martin, not the devastation at the heart of this story.

I think it’s a fucking masterpiece.

by Anonymousreply 6May 26, 2024 8:20 PM

OP, I assume you’re joking.

by Anonymousreply 7May 26, 2024 8:22 PM

It's a MARVELOUS musical, always on my top 10 list. Perhaps Martin was a mistake in the sense that people were expecting a comedy, although it did have humor.

The tone was unusual for its time, it was 1981 after all, R6 nailed it. When I praised it to the skies my greatest generation Dad said, 'yes, but why did they have the hobo kill the girl?"


by Anonymousreply 8May 26, 2024 8:29 PM

Certainly, the best and most interesting film Herbert Ross ever directed. Ross was a choreographer, and the musical numbers are dazzling. I never found Martin sexy in this or anything else, but his performing is impressive here. Peters, Walken and Jessica Harper are pitch perfect.

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by Anonymousreply 9May 26, 2024 8:47 PM

One of the best musical numbers EVAH....

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by Anonymousreply 10May 26, 2024 9:03 PM

Roll along, prairie moon!

I didn't see the movie, OP, because I had loved the BBC version so much. I couldn't picture Steven Martin in Bob Hoskins' role. Hoskins' version of Parker was such a stumpy little sad-sack loser, and he looked the part. How could tall, handsome Steve Martin, who looked like a Golden Age romantic leading man, carry off such a role? And the TV series was so British in some of its themes that I couldn't imagine the story translated to America.

Now, though, I regret not seeing it on a big screen back then and will definitely give it shot. Glad you brought it up.

by Anonymousreply 11May 26, 2024 9:31 PM

I remember when this movie came out. It was critically acclaimed, but it bombed badly because it was such a dark, depressing take on the Depression era.

Audiences were expecting a frivolous musical and got a tale about desperate people who lost their hopes and dreams instead.

by Anonymousreply 12May 26, 2024 9:43 PM

R11 I think it works because of Martin's handsome good looks and sexiness. Who would believe any wife wouldn't want to have sex with this guy ? Yet that was the life he was living with her - and was a new man when he met Peters, who desired him (and told him so). If he was a stumpy little sad-sack loser, it would make sense no one would want him.

by Anonymousreply 13May 26, 2024 9:57 PM

R13, that was part of the point of the TV series. Arthur Parker was a man no one really wanted, including his wife, who anyone could see was miles out of his league. She didn't not want him because he was ugly, though. Her frigidity (as it would have been called back then) was a big point of the show.

In your description, Martin is living a life that makes no rational sense (if you think being movie-star handsome is a guarantee a particular woman will want you). Is that supposed to make it more ironic, or more of a fantasy? What happens to Hoskins' Parker is a relentlessly realistic progression of events.

by Anonymousreply 14May 26, 2024 10:04 PM

Even people with dashed hopes and dreams are complicated and contradictory. Idealistic people aren't necessarily morally upstanding people, and having dreams doesn't make you a saint. The movie refused to sentimentalize the characters or the era. This is heresy to most people. At the same time it wasn't depressing at all, at least to its fans. There's always a song to get you through.

by Anonymousreply 15May 26, 2024 10:13 PM

Is this the movie in which Bernadette showed her knockers?

by Anonymousreply 16May 26, 2024 10:18 PM

When asked in Rolling Stone about the film's box office failure, 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."

Ha! Agreed.

by Anonymousreply 17May 26, 2024 10:24 PM

I watched the episode of the Tonight Show with Martin plugging the movie. He read excerpts of Pauline Kael's positive review, paused, jumped up, disappeared behind the curtain, and emerged a few seconds later wearing a different pair of pants. I think he did this twice. Later he instructed the audience that the movie wasn't a comedy. I don't think they believed him.

by Anonymousreply 18May 26, 2024 10:38 PM

I remember loving it. Didn’t Jessica Harper put lipstick on her nipples?

by Anonymousreply 19May 26, 2024 10:44 PM

I saw it on release, and quite liked it. Even the the downbeat aspects. And the fact I had a HUGE crush on Steve Martin at the time probably had a lot to do with my appreciation of the film.

by Anonymousreply 20May 26, 2024 11:17 PM

Sexy Steve Martin.

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by Anonymousreply 21May 26, 2024 11:29 PM

R19. Yes—one of the most disturbing moments in the history of film.

by Anonymousreply 22May 26, 2024 11:45 PM

They need to remake it with Ryan Gossling in the Martin role (who else, these days ?) and Margot Robbie in the Peters role (who else these days?). Anne Hathaway could take the Jessica Harper role.

by Anonymousreply 23May 27, 2024 12:02 AM

Two old biddies sitting behind me got up and walked out during the lipstick on the nipples scene.

by Anonymousreply 24May 27, 2024 12:33 AM

I always thought Steve Martin looked like Harrison Ford. Even now they could be cast as brothers.

by Anonymousreply 25May 27, 2024 12:39 AM

R25 Martin passed up on the role of Indiana Jones in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' to do 'Pennies'. The role was then offered to Ford.

by Anonymousreply 26May 27, 2024 12:52 AM

R26, Tom Selleck claims he was offered the role first.

by Anonymousreply 27May 27, 2024 12:55 AM

I guess everyone was offered the role first.

by Anonymousreply 28May 27, 2024 1:06 AM

Bet your bottom dollar

You and I are THROUGH!

'Cause lipstick on your nipples!

Told a tale on you!

by Anonymousreply 29May 27, 2024 1:25 AM

You had to be 18 to be admitted to see it here (Ontario, Canada) but a few buddies of mine convinced me to sneak in and watch it, certain it would be wacky and outrageous and very ADULT! Picture four bored 14 year old boys and a fifth one wide-eyed, mesmerized and suppressing a squeal (me!).

by Anonymousreply 30May 27, 2024 1:43 AM

I liked Steve Martin until he started doing the King Tut thing on SNL.

by Anonymousreply 31May 27, 2024 1:45 AM

It should have been a one off thing but he beat it to death.

by Anonymousreply 32May 27, 2024 1:47 AM

And now he’s saddled with it for life. It explains some of his bitterness.

by Anonymousreply 33May 27, 2024 1:57 AM

I can't believe the movie was Rated R back then. For a musical ?

by Anonymousreply 34May 27, 2024 2:54 AM

I know that in Ontario it was because of bare breasts and the word 'fuck'. This was before they came out with the 'under 14 must be accompanied by an adult' rating.

by Anonymousreply 35May 28, 2024 12:40 AM
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