New York

“Pennies From Heaven”

The supposedly poignant failure of American show biz utopias is the even more relentless theme of Herbert Ross’ critically overrated Pennies from Heaven. Less dialectical than schematic (and shticky where One from the Heart was merely sticky), Pennies from Heaven hyperbolizes the logic of the musical genre. The plot is grim Theodore Dreiser material, while the numbers are id unbridled. In Pennies from Heaven the characters not only speak in pop platitudes but think in them as well—lip-synching the lyrics (and fantasizing the production numbers) of various ’20s and ’30s chestnuts at regular intervals throughout the film. This eerie ventriloquism, the movie’s major formal trope, appeared in the BBC television series from which it was adapted and was also used—to more touching effect—in Michael Schultz’s no-prestige “ghetto musical” Car Wash.

An ambitious attempt to synthesize Depression

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