Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Chance at Heaven," or Miss Rogers' Neighborhood

The year 1933 was a good one for Ginger Rogers. She starred in two huge musical hits, "Gold Diggers of 1933" and "Flying Down to Rio," and at the same time came into her own as a dramatic actress with vehicles like "Chance at Heaven." 

"Chance at Heaven" is a pleasant but minor movie, and Rogers is its heart and soul. She plays Margie, called "Mug" by her longtime boyfriend, Blackie (Joel McCrea). They've grown up together in a small Massachusetts coastal town (actually the San Fernando Valley masquerading as Massachusetts) and Mug has been waiting patiently for Blackie to propose. In the meantime, she meets him at his charming little bungalow after work and cooks his favorite chicken pot pie, and then goes home to her parents.

Blackie loves Mug, but he's wrapped up in running a thriving little filling station ($1.85 would fill you up in those days) and marriage is not a high priority.

Then one day, rich Glory (Marian Nixon) arrives on the scene and works her way into Blackie's heart while slamming her Packard into his service station, and that is not a euphemism:



Glory is engaged to Sid (George Meeker), a whiny rich guy with bad posture. She goes for Blackie because he's everything Sid isn't -- tall, strong, handsome, hardworking, decent. The couples meet at a nightclub, and when she's alone with Glory, Margie starts to realize she has some competition:



Then Glory pays a visit to Blackie's gas station, and they steal a kiss just before Margie enters and realizes that the jig, she is up:  



One night Glory invites Blackie to a party at the family mansion, and as they sit outside Glory sees the lights of an amusement park in the distance. Blackie explains that it's a place called Pleasure Park, where all the regular folks go. Glory tells him she wants to go to Pleasure Park, too. Every night, if you get me.

Then, before you can say "pre-nup," Glory and Blackie have eloped. They move into Blackie's house, followed by newspaper photographers who want to see who the heiress eloped with. Then comes Glory's snobbish mother, who disapproves of the match. Finally, there is Margie, who still wants to be friends with Blackie -- and Glory, who's feeling a little out of her element.

Margie and Glory become such good friends, in fact, that when Glory learns she is pregnant, she tells Margie before she tells Blackie. And since this is 1933, they celebrate by drinking gin -- pregnancy, schmegnancy.

Blackie is thrilled, and Margie is resigned. Once the news is out, Glory's mother insists that her daughter join her in New York City for the pregnancy. After a few months, Blackie insists that Glory come home, but she isn't coming back. He rushes to New York to get the news -- Glory is ready to move on with her life and wants a divorce. The regular life is not for her. And what about the baby, Blackie asks. Glory's mother looks at him stonily: "The doctor was mistaken." Hmm -- interesting pre-code allusion to abortion there.

Blackie is crushed, and returns home. You can guess who's waiting for him with a smile on her face and chicken pot pie in the oven.

"Chance at Heaven" is an interesting glimpse at Rogers in a warmer, more domestic role; she gives the movie its emotional core. She's so winning, in fact, that you can't really figure out why Blackie goes for Glory -- compared to Margie she's silly, superficial and not as attractive. On the other hand, if he didn't go for her, there wouldn't have been a movie.

Here are the complete credits for "Chance at Heaven."


1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a great cast and an interesting storyline - I'll hope to see it. Judy

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