Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Another chance at heaven

Back in May 2012, when Joel McCrea was TCM Star of the Month, I made a brief mention of the movie Chance at Heaven. It's airing again tomorrow afternoon at 12:45 PM on TCM as part of a birthday salute to McCrea. I still stand by what I wrote in that one paragraph, except for the bit about it not being on DVD: TCM's schedule now lists it as being available from the TCM Shop as part of the Warner Archive collection, and currently on sale. Still, I'd recommend watching the movie on TCM before buying the DVD.

Joel McCrea plays Blackie, who runs one of those old-style service stations that didn't just sell you gasoline, but could also fix your car back in the days when eveything wasn't computerized and you had to take your car to the dealer to get it looked at. Blackie is engaged to the girl next door, Marje (Ginger Rogers), and the two of them are sure to get married and live happily after. Well, of course you know that's not going to be true, because if it were, we wouldn't have a movie.

The service station is in the vicinity of Silver Beach, one of those little seaside towns where the rich people decamp to for the summer. This summer, that means Glory (Marian Nixon) and her family. Glory takes the car out and has problems with it, resulting in her winding up at Blackie's service station. She's immediately smitten with Blackie, becuase he's Joel McCrea. What woman wouldn't be smitten with young, handsome McCrea? The bigger problem is that Blackie feels the same way toward Glory. Although, again, to be fair, young Marian Nixon isn't bad looking, and with her big-city ways you can see why somebody like Blackie would be thrown for a loop before coming to his senses. The ohly thing is, he doesn't come to his senses. Even though Glory's parents don't like the idea of her having a relationship with a guy like Blackie, the two are in love. Marje knows she's licked, so she gives up Blackie and gives him her blessing to get married to Marje.

This is where the story gets weird. Glory doesn't know how to be a good housewife to Blackie, which shouldn't be surprising since she would have had a bunch of servants catering to her every need. What is bizarre is that Marje stays in the picture, helping teach Glory how to take care of Blackie. And she doesn't seem to be doing it with any intention of trying to take Blackie back! Eventually, Glory gets pregnant, because that's what married couples do. This life-changing event makes her decide that perhaps being married to a guy like Blackie isn't how she really wants to spend the rest of her life. So Glory up and goes home to mother!

The material in Chance at Heaven is really screwed up, especially towards the end. Everybody tries hard, but can't really save the movie. That having been said, the extent to which I found myself thinking what the hell these characters were doing makes Chance at Heaven worth a viewing. That, and the presence of Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea.

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