HTF REVIEW: "Pennies From Heaven" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 15, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Pennies From Heaven

    Studio: Columbia Pictures
    Year: 1936
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 81 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
    Subtitles: English, French and Japanese

    Larry (Bing Crosby) is in prison for a trumped-up
    charge. It is there that he meets an inmate on
    death row that takes a liking to his singing and
    guitar playing. The inmate hands him a note and
    asks him, upon leaving prison, to deliver it to
    the Smith family who live in Middletown, NJ.
    Larry finds that the remaining members of the
    family consist of a little girl named Patsy
    (Edith Fellows)and her Grandfather (Donald Meek).
    Both are not only completely penniless, but are at
    the mercy of a social worker (Madge Evans) who
    threatens to take Patsy away if the Grandfather
    cannot provide for her.
    The carefree Larry finds himself with more
    responsibilities than he cares to handle, but
    devises a money-making scheme involving a haunted
    house that may just bring them "pennies from heaven."
    I am having the time of my life discovering these
    B&W classics that I would have never considered
    watching before if not for the fact I was reviewing
    them. Can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed
    Pennies From Heaven, a rather simple and
    enjoyable story with terrific musical numbers from
    Crosby, Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton (watch for
    a memorable "Skeleton Dance" number).
    Two interesting pieces of trivia here: Pennies
    From Heaven was the only film that the star made
    for Columbia Pictures, and it's director, Norman Z.
    McLeod, went on to direct The Marx Brothers in
    Horsefeathers and Monkey Business.
    How is the transfer?
    Though not by any means perfect, Pennies From
    Heaven looks darn good. I give the transfer
    much credit for looking very sharp. Images are
    finely detailed and contrast level is excellent.
    Blacks also appear as black rather than gray. The
    generally good image quality overshadows the fact
    that there are quite a few blemishes scattered
    throughout and picture jumps during the first 4
    minutes of the film. Consider the fact this movie
    is nearly 70 years old and you can easily appreciate
    how good it looks here.
    The digitally mastered mono audio is very clean.
    There's only a slight amount of background hiss
    and fortunately, audio doesn't become shrill. Bing's
    voice shines through with amazing clarity.
    I want to stop a moment and mention the fact that
    Pennies From Heaven is being released alongside
    You Can't Take It With You, both theatrically
    released during the late 1930s. Columbia has
    advertised both these titles as being High
    Definition Remasters
    . It's sort of surprising
    that Pennies From Heaven looks like something
    that might have been restored while the transfer
    of You Can't Take It With You looks miserable.
    Special Features
    Most notably absent here is the film's original
    theatrical trailer. Instead, there are trailers
    included for It Happened One Night and
    Lost Horizon
    Other than that, the cupboard is bare.
    Final Thoughts
    Pennies From Heaven is a real winner! For
    a lazy weekend afternoon you could do no better
    than sitting back and enjoying this fun, musical
    film that will take you back in time to the golden
    age of Hollywood. What could be better than that?!
    Release Date: January 28, 2003
    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. Mark Hanson

    Mark Hanson Agent

    May 4, 1999
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    Thanks for reminding me about this one. This was
    our lazy weekend type of stuff with mom and grandma
    and the old movies of even then.

    Makes you appreciate both the gains and losses we
    have had since then.
  3. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

    Jul 29, 1999
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    Los Angeles
    Real Name:
    Thanks for the review, Ron. I'll add some trivia:

    - Bing had four hit songs from the movie: his recording of the song "Pennies from Heaven" was a #1 hit single, "Let's Call A Heart A Heart" was top ten, and the songs "One, Two, Button Your Shoe" and "So Do I" both made the top twenty, according to the book "Pop Memories" by Joel Whitburn.

    - Bing helped finance the film in exchange for 50% of the profits.

    - Bing insisted that his friend Louis Armstrong be given top billing -- making Armstrong, in his film debut, the first African-American to ever receive top billing in a studio film.

    I've been wanting to see this. I'm embarrassed to say I've seen very few Bing Crosby movies. People have forgotten that he was a HUGE star in the 1930s and 1940s, in movies, on records, and on the radio. He was by far the top selling recording artist of both the 1930s and the 1940s, racking up thirty-eight #1 hit singles and over 150 top tens.

    Here's a statistic: In 1944 alone he had the #1 grossing movie (Going My Way), was voted the #1 movie star (a feat he'd repeat five years in a row, something only Schwarzenegger has matched), hosted the #1 radio show, won the Academy Award for Best Actor (well, in early '45), and had six number one hit singles. All in one year.

    Now he just seems to have vanished, except at Christmastime. Partly his own fault -- he more or less retired after 1960. But I'm glad to see the studios are starting to dig out his old films.
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Thanks for the information.

    I wouldn't mind reviewing a few more Bing movies.
    I seem to have enjoyed all I have seen thus far.
  5. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Don't forget that High Society is being release later this year with Bing, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra. By the way, Satchmo is in this film as well with him and Bing performing "Now you has Jazz".


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