Although made at Columbia, Pennies From Heaven comes across as a typical Bing Crosby-Paramount collaboration: Crosby as an easygoing wanderer who pretty much takes things as they come until something important causes him to take a little action. As in most of these vehicles, the plot is just an excuse for Crosby to display his amiable personality and croon his way through some numbers. Fortunately, he is an engaging enough personality to make this formula work, and Pennies has enough other points in its favor to make the whole enterprise into good, undemanding entertainment. Chief among its other assets is Louis Armstrong. While Armstrong is inevitably saddled with a part that today seems stereotyped, he does get to strut his musical stuff in the delightful "Skeletons in the Closet," and he swings his way through it with delightful abandon. Donald Meek also turns in fine support as the gentle and modest grandfather, and Edith Fellows is delightfully brash as the incorrigible youngster; she has quite a nice rapport with Crosby, as well. As for the score, the title song has become a standard, and deservedly so; if the rest of the songs are merely competent, they still do what they're supposed to do, and do it well. Norman Z. McLeod's direction is workmanlike, but smooth, and he does manage to evoke the dire times of the Depression, even while emphasizing a sense of optimism. On the whole, Pennies may not be heavenly, but it's genial and amusing.
by Craig Butler review