(DVD/YOD) You may be familiar with the Hollywood film PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1981), starring and ushered into existence by Steve Martin, but it’s based on a six-ep British series penned by Dennis Potter. To be fair to Martin, the film sticks very closely to the original series, but the Hollywood gloss gets in the way, to the point where the film can’t see the premise for the trees. For example:

Potter’s ‘Yes, Yes’:

Martin’s ‘Yes, Yes’:

But I’m getting ahead of myself. PENNIES FROM HEAVEN is an incredibly unsavory lip-synced jukebox musical that takes place in the 1930s about a man’s midlife crisis — Bob Hoskins as Arthur Parker, portrayed Willy Loman style — and the women he leaves in his wake. On paper, it’s not terribly appealing, partially because Potter frames Arther as a noir hero, eschewed by his wife (and therefore, society) because of his sex drive ( ). However, Potter’s women are far more fascinating than Arthur, and the musical numbers still resonate, well over 40 years later. Take for example, Arthur’s paramour, teacher Eileen:

Potter’s ‘Love is Good for Anything that Ails You’:

Martin’s ‘Love is Good for Anything that Ails You’:

What’s dictated via Hollywood’s PENNIES FROM HEAVEN — no offense to Bernadette Peters’ performance — is the longing, the frustration, the thrill in letting loose. It’s all spelled-out. Contrast it with Potter’s number, where it’s all simply acted out through Cheryl Campbell’s amazing performance.

And here’s a number featuring Arthur’s long-suffering wife. (The number doesn’t appear in Martin’s film.)

Potter’s ‘You Rascal, You’:

If you aren’t into 20s/30s era American Jazz or post WWI British miserabilia, this probably isn’t a series for you, but if you’re into either one, hunt down a copy.