bookshelves: play-dramatisation, film-only, under-50-ratings, summer-2014, period-piece, britain-england, forest, music
Read from June 07 to 17, 2014
Pennies from Heaven (1978)TV Mini-Series
IMDB description: Arthur, a sheet music salesman, has an ear for the hit tunes, but nobody will trust it. And his imagination often bursts into full song, building musical numbers around the greatest frustrations in his life. He meets an innocent young school teacher, Eileen, who seems to hear the same music, but when Eileen learns that he’s married, and that she’s pregnant with his child, she runs away. Arthur gives up everything to find and protect her, but fate and the music haven’t finished with Arthur Parker. – Written by Kathy Li
The bits that my better half finds so ugly are the singing interludes, those songs of the times that further the story along and explain innermost thoughts. Personally, I love the Royal Forest of Dean setting for Arthur’s alternative life.
Yes, this is a dated offering but it is one that I have waited a long time to see. Potter was one of the ground-breaking social-realism playwrights. No doubt Mimal will like the Singing Detective better when we get to it. Episode details that follow are taken exclusively from wiki:
Part 1 ‘Down Sunnyside Lane’: In the mid-1930s, Arthur and Joan Parker (Bob Hoskins and Gemma Craven) are an incompatible married couple living in the London suburbs. Arthur, a travelling sheet music salesman, is a passionate man who is frustrated by his wife’s repressed nature. On a car journey to the Gloucester area he picks up ‘the accordion man’, a vagrant (Kenneth Colley) who invariably busks on the instrument in the vicinity of the other characters, but the signs of the man’s mental illness soon lead Arthur to reject him after they spend several hours together. While trying to persuade a shopkeeper (Arnold Peters) to take some of his goods, Arthur notices a female customer with whom he immediately becomes besotted. Arthur and ‘the accordion man’ both manage to frighten the young woman. Before returning to London, Arthur has sex with Marjorie, a Gloucestershire prostitute (Rosemary Martin) in the back of his car.
Part 2 ‘The Sweetest Thing’: Arthur’s bank manager (Peter Cellier) refuses to give him a loan. Eileen Everson (Cheryl Campbell), the woman he encountered, is a junior school teacher in the Forest of Dean who lives with her widowed coal mining father and two brothers, also miners. Meanwhile, Arthur has returned to the area to trace the woman he is obsessed with. He finally encounters Eileen in a wood near the Everson’s cottage, and returns to their home where Arthur claims his wife has died in a motorcycle accident. He and Eileen eventually make love after the rest of the household have gone to bed.
Part 3 ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’: The Parker’s marriage briefly revives after Joan smears lipstick on her nipples, and appears to respond to some of her husband’s sexual fantasies. Joan is persuaded to use her inheritance to finance Arthur’s desire to open a record shop. Meanwhile, Eileen has discovered she is pregnant and is forced to give up her job. After unexpectedly meeting a young blind girl (Yolande Palfrey) in a field, whom he lusts after under his breath, Arthur reappears at the Everson family home, and his relationship with Eileen revives. The blind girl is raped and murdered, for which Arthur is arrested, but soon released. Eileen moves to London, but she has though lost contact with Arthur again.
“Part 4 Better Think Twice”
Almost destitute, Eileen eats little and is in arrears for her cheap hotel room. She meets the superficially sympathetic Tom (Hywel Bennett), a wealthy man with no obvious occupation, and becomes dependent upon him. Arthur opens his new record shop, but he has very few customers, an exception being Tom. The two men get along very well, and Arthur delivers some records to the apartment where Eileen is recovering from an (illegal) abortion paid for by Tom, but the couple are not reunited. Arthur later glimpses Eileen in the pub where she had met Tom, and they leave for the record shop. Unaware of Arthur’s connection to Tom, Eileen explains that the man who paid for her abortion now has a hold over her, and he intends to be her pimp. The couple decide they have to escape from London, and shatter Arthur’s stock of fragile shellac discs.
“Part 5 Painting the Clouds”
A police inspector (Dave King) visits Joan after Arthur’s unexplained disappearance and the destruction of his retail stock. Her comments about Arthur’s sexual tastes, particularly his wish for his wife to move around the house without wearing her knickers, lead the police to make a connection with the murder of the blind girl whose undergarment had been removed. ‘The accordion man’ is haunted by her image and his responsibility for the murder. (It is clear he is not delusional over this event.) He is disorientated when running into Eileen while she is street walking; the dead girl bears a resemblance to her. Arthur is now living off Eileen’s immoral earnings, and she is a client of a Conservative MP, Major Archibald Paxville (Ronald Fraser), who she unsuccessfully attempts to blackmail. ‘The accordion man’ commits suicide, probably by throwing himself off Hammersmith Bridge (which also features ominously in The Singing Detective), and his corpse is discovered. Arthur and Eileen’s false optimism for the future is dashed when they see a newspaper headline indicating he is wanted for murder.
“Part 6 Says My Heart”
Arthur and Eileen are on the run. They spend the night in a barn, but Eileen’s attempt to find help eventually leads her to shoot dead a lonely and deranged farmer (Philip Locke). They feed and clean themselves in his farmhouse, and scavenge through the man’s possessions for money and things they can sell. Leaving the farm Arthur stops, thinking he has seen ‘the accordion man’, but cannot restart their stolen car. Passing police take the couple in for questioning, and Arthur is charged with the murder of the blind girl. In the crown court inconsistencies in Arthur’s various accounts, and a witness unwittingly confusing Arthur’s fixation on Eileen for an obsession with the blind girl lead to his conviction and execution. After Eileen notes the time set for his hanging has passed, Arthur reappears and a happy ending is announced by the two characters.
CR Pennies from Heaven
5* The Changing Forest: Life in the Forest of Dean Today
TR The Singing Detective