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      One Foot in Heaven

      Released Nov 1, 1941 1h 48m Drama List
      100% Tomatometer 8 Reviews 56% Audience Score 100+ Ratings After hearing an evangelist preach, William Spence (Fredric March) abandons his dream of becoming a doctor in favor of studying for the clergy. Once ordained, he and his new wife, Hope (Martha Scott), begin a series of moves from one small-town church to another, each with a new set of challenges, not the least of which is the general orneriness of their parishioners. Along the way, they have three children, and William gradually becomes more flexible about church doctrine. Read More Read Less

      Critics Reviews

      View All (8) Critics Reviews
      Bosley Crowther New York Times Out of Hartzell Spence's deeply affectionate biography of his ministerial father, William Spence, the Warners have derived a cheerful and warmly compassionate film, an excellent character study and an adult entertainment on the screen. Rated: 4.5/5 Feb 3, 2012 Full Review Variety Staff Variety A warm and human preachment for godliness. Feb 3, 2012 Full Review J. R. Jones Chicago Reader The movie's stiff sense of virtue won it an Oscar nomination, but more impressive is Scott's weirdly distant performance as a woman who impulsively accepts the life of a church mouse and then finds she can't do much for her children. Feb 3, 2012 Full Review Edgar Anstey The Spectator This is a warm, sincere and unpretentious picture. Sep 28, 2015 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews Touching crowd-pleasing family drama. Rated: B Apr 8, 2015 Full Review TV Guide In one of his finest performances, Fredric March plays Rev. William Spence, a Methodist minister who devotes his life to transforming wavering parishes into strong pillars of faith. Rated: 3.5/4 Feb 3, 2012 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

      View All (21) audience reviews
      Dennis B A classy movie reflecting on simpler times a real values. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 04/24/23 Full Review david l One Foot in Heaven has some rather interesting themes regarding religion and tradition, but it doesn't fully develop them nor is it ever a particularly engaging watch. It's all rather dated, slow in pace and quite forgettable, uneventful and predictable in most of its plot points. The acting by its solid cast was pretty good, but everything else was undoubtedly quite subpar. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member Wonderful story of faith and family. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 04/21/21 Full Review steve d Nothing special unless you are religious. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Audience Member Religiously themed films were popular in the 1940s, possibly because the Hays Code favored them, but hits at the time like The Song of Bernadette (1943) and Going My Way (1944) have not retained their status as hit films. Despite being nominated for Best Picture in 1941 few modern audiences will know this quiet little family drama. I actually think this is a shame as while I dreaded watching the film I found myself enjoying it and even as I disagreed with the beliefs that the characters held I was drawn into their story by estimable performances and a surprisingly clever screenplay. Of course this film had no chance in the 1941 Best Picture lineup with competition as strong as Citizen Kane (1941) and How Green Was My Valley (1941) but I would argue that it deserved it's nomination. In the 1900s Canadian William Spence, Fredric March, abandons his ambitions of becoming a doctor in order to become a minister after receiving a calling from God. His fiancée Hope Morris, Martha Scott, supports his decision and travels with him to small town Iowa where she struggles to build a home for the two of them with the difficult conditions and pushy locals. They eventually acclimate to their surroundings and Spence becomes good at his job but the family is starving with a lack of donations and Spence has to ask locals to bring business his way in the form of marriage ceremonies. Spence conflicts with his rebellious son Hartzell, Frankie Thomas, over his attendance of movie theaters but when Spence accompanies his son to a showing he finds that he agrees with the morals presented in the film and the two men come to an understanding. The family faces upheaval when they relocate to Colorado and the wealthy Mrs. Preston Thurston, Laura Hope Crews, threatens to destroy them by spreading rumors. The anchor of the film is March who is typically excellent at investing an everyman character with a sense of genuine decency and just a touch of arrogance that makes him more interesting than Bing Crosby or Gregory Peck. He is quite captivating from the first moment we witness him as he makes his character's conversion totally believable despite the lack of background provided in the screenplay. His concern later in the film is something that we are genuinely invested in as he can't afford food to keep his children alive and March wonderfully conveys the sense of a man who appears calm and collected but is raging on the inside. The rest of the cast don't quite match his level of excellence but Scott is pleasant as his devoted wife and Thomas really holds his own against March during his one big scene. I must admit that I should have realized I would be susceptible to the film's charms as I tend to like these portraits of family life that serve more as character studies than plot driven dramas. There is admittedly little conflict in the film but for somebody like me, who luxuriates in the atmosphere of a cozy little family, it was a treat to see a group of people who love one another face down everyday issues like financial problems. The issues of the characters in this film are solved through conversation and compromise not fist fights and I loved seeing a leading man who did not feel the need to be violent presented positively. Screenwriter Casey Robinson, most associated with Bette Davis vehicles like Now, Voyager (1942), tones down the melodrama to write an honest portrait of a family as while one scene late in the film would suggest a dramatic love story between the married couple the audience knows better at that point. I was thrilled to watch a film so committed to documenting the lives of ordinary people who were not directly involved in the War or serving as entertainers of some sort. This may be a tough sell for some audiences as it's overtly religious subjects and lack of real plot might cause them to think it is dull but I would caution them against dismissing it because in watching it they will see a gorgeously crafted story that is heartwarming and surprisingly realistic. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/01/23 Full Review Audience Member I love family movies that inspire and are realistic. This one has a great cast, great story AND great music! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 01/13/23 Full Review Read all reviews
      One Foot in Heaven

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      Cast & Crew

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      Movie Info

      Synopsis After hearing an evangelist preach, William Spence (Fredric March) abandons his dream of becoming a doctor in favor of studying for the clergy. Once ordained, he and his new wife, Hope (Martha Scott), begin a series of moves from one small-town church to another, each with a new set of challenges, not the least of which is the general orneriness of their parishioners. Along the way, they have three children, and William gradually becomes more flexible about church doctrine.
      Director
      Irving Rapper
      Producer
      Jack L. Warner, Hal B. Wallis
      Distributor
      Warner Bros. Pictures
      Production Co
      Warner Bros.
      Genre
      Drama
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Nov 1, 1941, Original
      Runtime
      1h 48m