PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1936)
Article 2729 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-26-2008
Posting Date: 2-1-2009
Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Featuring Bing Crosby, Madge Evans, Edith Fellows
A lute-playing convict is asked by a condemned murderer to deliver a letter to the family of the man he killed. When he does, he becomes involved in the fate of a young girl who is in danger of being sent to an orphanage.
This is a predictable musical drama; you know fairly early on just what’s going to happen at the end of the movie. This is not to say it isn’t enjoyable; though Bing Crosby’s likable and warm screen persona may not have been his real self, he projected it so well that it still works its magic, even to this day. Besides that, he was a great singer with a wonderful voice, and he’s not the only singing talent of note in the movie; Louis Armstrong is also on hand, and xylophonist Lionel Hampton is also part of his band. Donald Meek is also enjoyable as the grandfather, and you may want to keep your eyes open for a cameo from Syd Saylor. The fantastic content? At one point, the convict, the daughter and the grandfather move in to a reputedly haunted house. Of course it isn’t really haunted, but they decide to turn it into a nightclub that retains the ‘haunted’ theme. This gives us the highlight of the movie – Louis Armstrong and his band doing a wonderful performance of the song “Skeleton in the Closet”, with a suitably spooky atmosphere and a dancing skeleton to boot. The horror content may be slight, but it’s satisfying and fun. As for the rest, it’s standard Hollywood hokum.