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Pennies from Heaven

In this earlier post, I asked why live theater is so much more effective than filmed theater. Some people misinterpreted my remarks to mean that musical films don’t have any kick. That’s not what I meant. When you visit New York, there’s a tourist channel on TV that talks about what’s playing on Broadway. And it shows clips from current musicals–film clips of the staged live theater. They’re horrible to watch, at least for me. They look silly.

But a film version of a musical can be wonderful–My Fair Lady is one example. Cabaret is another. Chicago was interesting to look at. Another visually stunning and interesting musical on film is Pennies from Heaven, the 1981 version directed by Herbert Ross. It’s a creepy, haunting, surprising, weird but visually riveting film. Steve Martin is phenomenal as are Bernadette Peters and Christopher Walken.

It is worth seeing just for the title song, Pennies from Heaven, which is one of the great economics songs of all time–a song about how the world is designed without free lunches. Here are the lyrics:


A long time ago
A million years BC

The best things in life
Were absolutely free.

But no one appreciated
A sky that was always blue.

And no one congratulated
A moon that was always new.

So it was planned that they
would vanish now and then

And you must pay before you
get them back again.

That’s what storms were made for

And you shouldn’t be afraid for

Every time it rains it rains
Pennies from heaven.

Don’t you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven.

You’ll find your fortune falling
All over town.

Be sure that your umbrella is upside down.

Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers.
If you want the things you love, you must have showers.

So when you hear it thunder
Don’t run under a tree.

There’ll be pennies from heaven for you and me.




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