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Pennies From Heaven (1981)



Average Rating: 7.1/10
Reviews Counted: 25
Fresh: 21 | Rotten: 4

A complicated little musical, Pennies from Heaven is a dazzling, tragic spectacle.


Average Rating: 4.8/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 4

A complicated little musical, Pennies from Heaven is a dazzling, tragic spectacle.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 3,601

My Rating

Movie Info

Adapted from Dennis Potter's landmark British TV miniseries and relocated to the United States during the Depression, Pennies from Heaven dramatizes how popular songs both shaped and reflected the thoughts of people living through economic (and emotional) hardship. Arthur Parker (Steve Martin) is a sheet music salesman who believes that he can spot a hit a mile away and wants to open his own store. But he can't get a bank loan and his wife Joan (Jessica Harper), who has savings left to her by


Drama, Romance, Musical & Performing Arts

Dennis Potter

Jul 27, 2004

Warner Home Video

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All Critics (25) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (4) | DVD (10)

Perhaps this was not the project on which to lavish so many MGM millions. The BBC show was an enchanted cottage; this is the Las Vegas Grand Hotel.

February 2, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Almost as if he were directing Pinter, Herbert Ross has actors speak a line, then wait two beats before delivering the next phrase. Technique smothers such ordinarily lively performers as Martin, Peters and Harper.

May 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Let's face the music and dance, indeed.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Pennies from Heaven is dazzling and disappointing in equal measure.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie, though, is not easy to respond to. It's chilly without being provocative in any intellectual way.

August 30, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

he point is made endlessly, though it's in the film's favor that it's made with seriousness, consideration, and a certain amount of imagination.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A bit of filmmaking as film criticism to be respected and admired above and beyond its relationship to the legendary miniseries that it pushed out of print for more than 20 years.

December 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

Not for everyone, but those who respond to it will find it unforgettable.

May 20, 2008 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Underrated, fascinating musical starring Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters.

March 8, 2008

O ótimo conceito deste musical torna-se ainda mais fascinante graças às belas coreografias, aos ricos figurinos, à impecável direção de arte e, é claro, à magnífica fotografia de Gordon Willis.

July 8, 2007
Cinema em Cena

Dark as night but perfectly lit, a little sad but with a song in its heart.

March 26, 2004 Full Review Source:

Potter adapted his immensely successful British TV series into a Hollywood script that maintained most of its intelligence as well as the musical numbers.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4

Doesn't quite work. Enough of it works, however, to give the film a shot, and it does in some ways improve with the passage of time.

November 6, 2002 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

A dazzling downer of a musical

June 27, 2002 Full Review Source: All Movie Guide
All Movie Guide

How cynical can a musical be?

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus
Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus

Audience Reviews for Pennies From Heaven

People trying to escape to a fantasy world where songs make up for the harsh reality they live in is a subject I find utterly appealing, even more if there is a lively, playful mastermind behind it to inject a good measure of black humour to the mix. Too bad Dennis Potter's amazing writing wasn't adapted to the silver screen by an equally sharp mind. But I pass things like that because I love the period, Gordon Willis' lightning and the lovely tunes. Also, Christopher Walken shows what a great dancer he is.
August 16, 2011

Super Reviewer

As fun as the musical numbers are, there is some very dark drama in this movie. I liked how everyone lip-syncs to the actual songs recorded in the 1930s. Here Steve Martin shows what a good actor he is as well as a dancer. Christopher Walken strip-teaseling to "Lets Misbehave" then telling Bernadette Peters "You'd better not be a tease . . . cause I'll cut your face" is a great scene. I can't speak to this being better than the original miniseries because I haven't seen it, but this film on its own is very good.
May 26, 2008
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer

The most depressing musical of all time. Easy 5 stars.
I wonder if Lars Von Trier saw this?
January 31, 2007

Super Reviewer

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