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One Foot In Heaven

(1941 b 108')

En: 7 Ed: 8

Based on Hartzell Spence's biography of his father, a minister and his wife adjust to living in poor parsonages as they serve their congregation.

In 1904 the Canadian parents of Hope (Martha Scott) read she is going to wed a young doctor. William Spence (Fredric March) comes in and says he is going to be a minister instead of a physician. Hope goes with him to Iowa. The women bring them food and help them keep things as they are in the parsonage. William tells Hope not to wear her best clothes. William and Hope move from place to place and have children. Hope wants her husband to christen the baby William Jr. They lack food and money, but William won't borrow. He tries to get a wedding fee. Dr. Horrigan (Jerome Cowan) buys him a soda, and they discuss the existence of the soul. William gets a wedding, and Hope describes his $2 and $5 performances. William baptizes his son William Frazier to avoid Jr. He disciplines his son Hartzell (Peter Caldwell) about playing on Sunday and goes to a movie to explain why it is bad; but in a silent western he likes seeing good triumph. William preaches they should listen to their children but learns the parsonage is burning. During the war William serves as a chaplain, and Hope is a nurse.

In Denver the roof leaks badly. William goes to see wealthy Mrs. Sandow (Beulah Bondi) but finds her gardener Samson (Harry Davenport), who humbly gives him tea. William commends his wife for all she has done and aims to get a new church and parsonage. Mrs. Sandow objects to William's calling on Samson and leaves his church. At a meeting architect Clayton (Grant Mitchell) withdraws. Preston Thurston (Gene Lockhart) offers $50,000; but William expects $75,000, and Thurston is reluctant. Dr. John Romer (Moroni Olsen) and William complain about the Thurston choir. So William has children sing instead. The Thurstons insist he reinstate the choir, but William dismisses them. John tells William that contributions are too small. Hartzell (Frankie Thomas) tells his father that he was expelled from school, because a girl had to leave town; but he says he is not guilty. Haskins (Charles Halton) tells William where he got the rumor, and William traces it to Mrs. Thurston (Laura Hope Crews). William and Hope consider a position in California; but William tells Mrs. Thurston and others that they lied. He gets support for a new church. His daughter Eileen asks for a social center. William tells Thurston he will contribute $85,000, and to replace the old parsonage he accepts the recreation center. Mrs. Sandow asks to come back and contributes a stain-glass window, chimes, and an organ. John tells William to take his medicine for his heart. Hope refuses to go back to Iowa but changes her mind. In the final scene as William plays the chimes, people hear them and gather to listen.

This heart-warming story affirms the combination of Christian and American values that glory in increasing material prosperity.

Copyright © 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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