Pennies from Heaven

Synopsis: In Chicago during the 1930s depression, sheet music salesman Arthur Parker is trying to sell his products, but it's not easy to convince unwilling music store owners to buy them. Although he's already married to the somewhat drab Joan, when he meets school teacher Eileen in a music store, he falls in love with her.
Director(s): Herbert Ross
Production: Warner Home Video
  Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 6 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
108 min


Joanie, sugar?

Come on, Joan.


-Wake up, baby.

-No, Arthur, don't.

-Oh, baby. Come on, sugar.

-No. It's too early, Arthur.

-Oh, Joanie, wake up.

-I'm not awake.

Arthur, there isn't time.

-There's always time for this, Joan.

-No. Stop it. Arthur, no. Don't.

I said, no!

Why not? Why not, Joan?

You said you wanted to get away early.

That's what you said.

You never want to, do you? Never.

-Fix the coffee, will you, darling?

-Goddamn coffee.


-Listen, Joan, don't you understand?

I'm going to be away from home

for four days and nights.

-There's no need to swear, is there?

-That's not much of a cuss.

I don't think it's very nice, Arthur,

especially in your own home.

You don't give me a chance.

You gotta give me a chance.

I don't know what you mean, Arthur.

I wouldn't go all that way

without breakfast. You must eat, sweetie.

I like feeling empty.

You know you don't. What funny things

you say in one of your moods.

I'm empty, Joan.

Nothing inside me. Nothing at all.

Oh, what, Arthur? Not even a song?

Not a teeny-weeny little tune?

I keep them songs in my bag,

not in my heart.

And in your head.

That fella at the bank yesterday said he

didn't reckon there was a fella in Chicago...

...who knew more about songs that sell

than me.

-Did he say that?

-He said, "Borrow what you like.

A fella like you is no risk.

No risk at all."

-Is that true, Arthur?

-And I said, "I don't want it.

My wife's got some cash,

and she'll support me."

We need that money, Arthur,

for our old age.

No. We need it now, Joan.

Honey, I'm a good salesman.

I can pick the right songs.

-Jesus Christ almighty.

-Don't blaspheme.

Corn to the left of you,

corn to the right...

...and the storekeepers are dumb and windy

as my old granny's a**hole.



...your hick storekeeper cusses a lot,

believe me.

My daddy didn't. Not ever.

Yeah, but your daddy used to sing

in the church choir.

He was more a Christian

than a storekeeper.

He might overcharge you,

but he said his prayers.


He would want you

to use that money he left you.

Money he worked hard for all his life

to save for a rainy day?

It's raining. Pouring.

Oh, cheer up, Arthur.

You won't sell anything without a smile.


-Make me happy, Joan.

It'd really be nice, huh?

Down here on the floor?

Joan, look.

I want to show you something, Joan.

-Stop! Arthur!

-Birds do it. Bees do it.

Little birdies in the trees do it.

It was just a thought.

A very peculiar thought, Arthur.

Don't you ever listen to the words... the songs?

In these songs?

That's not real life.

Real life?

You tell me what real life is.

It's a bowl of dog biscuits.

There's nothing wrong with that,

if you're a dog.

That's what you want.

You want a goddamn poodle.

Not a man. Not a real man!

-Don't be silly, Arthur.

-Well, I'll tell you this...

...this is one old dog

who ain't coming back to the kennel.

What do you mean, Arthur?

Three guesses.


A thousand dollars.

What on earth do you want

with $ 1000, Mr. Parker?

-I want more capital for my business.

-Selling sheet music?

Yeah, songs, on commission.

I got a bad territory, see...

...East Central Illinois.

God help me.

I want to muscle in on Indianapolis

as well, you get me?

Yes. With all such large sums of money...

...the question of adequate collateral

cannot be evaded.


-Well, you see...

...your wife has a deposit account

at this branch.

That's hers. That is separate.

Her dad willed her that.

-Lf that could be put up as collateral--

-Don't you goddamn understand?

Really, Mr. Parker...

...that sort of language

won't help one little bit.

What will help, then? You tell me.

-That's what I've been trying to--

-Without dragging in my wife's cash.

Which represents the only chance

of your getting a loan...

...of the size of which you are proposing.

What about this, then?

This is what you sell things with.

It's what's up here that matters.

I know the kind of songs that sell.

I got an instinct, and I get 30 percent

of every song sheet I push to the retailer.


Well, nearly 30 percent of 10 cents.

What's the good of setting up

your own business in America today?

Times are hard.

The Depression is still with us.

And why?

Because of dry rot, that's why.

Salesmanship made this country great,

and salesmanship will keep us great.

Dry rot. That's what's doing

the damage. Dry rot.

That's the stuff you've got

between your ears, pal.

Good day, Parker.

What'd you yell?


I didn't--

-I didn't holler nothing, sir.


I didn't holler anything.

No. Nor me, sir.

Come on. Get in.

-Bring your case.

-Oh, thank you.

-No extra charge.

-Thanks a million.

Too fast for you, buddy?

Nice, this...


Not bad.

I wish....

Wish what?


...wish I had one.

Hey, what's in that case?


-Oh, right, I should have known. A piano.

Piano accordion.


You can play it?

It's my living.

Oh, no. I think I know what I can

and can't sell in my own store, Mr. Parker.

You sure do. I wouldn't try

to tell you what you could sell--

-lf there is a demand for "Desert Moon"--

-"Prairie Moon." "Prairie Moon," sir.

-This is a great, great song, sir.

-Lf, I can just call the wholesaler, right?

And wait a week? Whereas

if you take a dozen now, you'll be ready...

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Dennis Potter

Dennis Christopher George Potter (17 May 1935 – 7 June 1994) was an English television dramatist, screenwriter and journalist. After graduating from Oxford University, he initially worked in journalism. After standing for parliament as a Labour candidate at the 1964 general election, his health was affected by the onset of psoriatic arthropathy which necessitated Potter changing careers and led to him becoming a television dramatist. His new career began with contributions to the BBC's Wednesday Play anthology series in 1965, and continued to work in the medium for the next thirty years. He is best known for his BBC TV serials Pennies from Heaven (1978), The Singing Detective (1986), and the television plays Blue Remembered Hills (1979) and Brimstone and Treacle (1976). His television dramas mixed fantasy and reality, the personal and the social and often used themes and images from popular culture. Potter is widely regarded as one of the most influential and innovative dramatists to have worked in British television. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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