One Foot in Heaven (1941)

106 mins | Biography | 1 November 1941

Director:

Irving Rapper

Writer:

Casey Robinson

Cinematographer:

Charles Rosher

Editor:

Warren Low

Production Designer:

Carl Jules Weyl

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following written acknowledgment: "For their valuable aid during the production of this motion picture, we acknowledge a great debt of gratitude to the members of the Advisory Committee of Clergymen organized by [the] Christian Herald: Bishop James Edward Freeman, Washington, D.C., Chairman; Dr. Daniel A. Poling, Philadelphia, Pa., Secretary; Bishop Charles Wesley Flint, Syracuse, N. Y.; Dr. Edgar DeWitt Jones, Detroit, Mich.; Dr. Charles E. Kerr, Tulsa, Okla."
       Harzell Spence's best-selling book was based on the life of his father, a small-town Methodist minister in Iowa and Colorado from 1904 through the 1920s. A 20 Jan 1941 article in HCN noted that Raymond Massey was Hartzell Spence's choice to play his father.
       News items in HR add the following information: Raymond Massey and Alexander Knox were tested for the lead. Olivia de Havilland was slated to co-star with Fredric March, but was replaced by Martha Scott when the former was reassigned to They Died with Their Boots On . Barton MacLane was considered for a role. The California scenes were filmed at the Wilshire Methodist Church at Wilshire and Lucerne in Los Angeles. Twelve girls were added to The Robert Mitchell Choir for the performance of "The Children's Prayer."
       The William S. Hart picture that the Spences watch was the 1917 film The Silent Man (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.4016). At the Hollywood premiere of One Foot in Heaven , Hart was the guest of honor. The film won one of seven medals awarded by Parents Magazine in 1941 and was nominated for the Best ... More Less

The film begins with the following written acknowledgment: "For their valuable aid during the production of this motion picture, we acknowledge a great debt of gratitude to the members of the Advisory Committee of Clergymen organized by [the] Christian Herald: Bishop James Edward Freeman, Washington, D.C., Chairman; Dr. Daniel A. Poling, Philadelphia, Pa., Secretary; Bishop Charles Wesley Flint, Syracuse, N. Y.; Dr. Edgar DeWitt Jones, Detroit, Mich.; Dr. Charles E. Kerr, Tulsa, Okla."
       Harzell Spence's best-selling book was based on the life of his father, a small-town Methodist minister in Iowa and Colorado from 1904 through the 1920s. A 20 Jan 1941 article in HCN noted that Raymond Massey was Hartzell Spence's choice to play his father.
       News items in HR add the following information: Raymond Massey and Alexander Knox were tested for the lead. Olivia de Havilland was slated to co-star with Fredric March, but was replaced by Martha Scott when the former was reassigned to They Died with Their Boots On . Barton MacLane was considered for a role. The California scenes were filmed at the Wilshire Methodist Church at Wilshire and Lucerne in Los Angeles. Twelve girls were added to The Robert Mitchell Choir for the performance of "The Children's Prayer."
       The William S. Hart picture that the Spences watch was the 1917 film The Silent Man (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.4016). At the Hollywood premiere of One Foot in Heaven , Hart was the guest of honor. The film won one of seven medals awarded by Parents Magazine in 1941 and was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Carl E. Milliken, director of the MPPA, was so impressed with the content of the film that he wrote a letter to the trade, encouraging exhibitors to promote the film in their communities. Fredric March and Martha Scott reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 20 Apr 1942. The film was subsequently adapted for the Lux Summer Theatre on 27 Jul 1953, starring Dana Andrews and Jeanne Bates, and the Lux Video Theatre on 3 Feb 1955, starring Hugh Marlowe and Ellen Drew. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 Oct 1941.
---
Film Daily
30 Sep 41
p. 8.
Hollywood Citizen-News
20 Jan 1941.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Dec 40
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 41
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 41
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jun 41
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Sep 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Oct 41
p. 16.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Aug 41
p. 206.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
4 Oct 41
p. 287.
New York Times
14 Nov 41
p. 28.
Variety
1 Oct 41
p. 9.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Olin Howland
Byron Barr
Mary Brodell
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Orch arr
VISUAL EFFECTS
Mont
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book One Foot in Heaven--The Life of a Practical Parson by Hartzell Spence (New York, 1940).
SONGS
"The Children's Prayer," from the opera Hansel and Gretel , libretto by Adelheid Wette, music by Engelbert Humperdinck
"The Church's One Foundation," music by Samuel Wesley, words by Samuel Stone.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 November 1941
Premiere Information:
World premiere: Washington, D.C., 2 October 1941
Production Date:
late June--mid August 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 November 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10812
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
106
Length(in feet):
9,678
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In Stratford, Ontario in 1904, William Spence is inspired by an evangelical speaker to study for the ministry instead of entering medical school. Although Will's first post as an ordained Methodist minister is a small town in Iowa, Hope, his new wife, devotedly accompanies him. The dilapidated parsonage is a great disappointment to Hope, but soon the women of the church arrive to help straighten things out and Hope learns in the process that the parsonage will always be the domain of these women. The Spences move from parish to parish and along the way first Eileen and then Hartzell are born to them, but they are still very poor. During World War I, Will augments his income by performing weddings. When a third baby, a boy, is born, Hope and Will cannot agree on a name, and he remains unbaptized at three months old. Hope wants to name the baby William Spence, Jr. and Will, who does not like the idea, insists that he should be given the middle name Frazer. Will finally agrees to name the baby the following Sunday and baptizes him William Frazer Spence. Although Eileen and Hartzell expect their parents to quarrel after the service, Hope agrees that the baby shall be called Frazer. Hartzell has a hard time with the idea that a minister's son should be an example to the other boys. Will explains that "a pastor's family walks a tightrope, balancing with one foot on earth and one foot already in heaven." When a chance visitor reveals that she has seen Hartzell at the movies, a pastime forbidden to Methodists, ... +


In Stratford, Ontario in 1904, William Spence is inspired by an evangelical speaker to study for the ministry instead of entering medical school. Although Will's first post as an ordained Methodist minister is a small town in Iowa, Hope, his new wife, devotedly accompanies him. The dilapidated parsonage is a great disappointment to Hope, but soon the women of the church arrive to help straighten things out and Hope learns in the process that the parsonage will always be the domain of these women. The Spences move from parish to parish and along the way first Eileen and then Hartzell are born to them, but they are still very poor. During World War I, Will augments his income by performing weddings. When a third baby, a boy, is born, Hope and Will cannot agree on a name, and he remains unbaptized at three months old. Hope wants to name the baby William Spence, Jr. and Will, who does not like the idea, insists that he should be given the middle name Frazer. Will finally agrees to name the baby the following Sunday and baptizes him William Frazer Spence. Although Eileen and Hartzell expect their parents to quarrel after the service, Hope agrees that the baby shall be called Frazer. Hartzell has a hard time with the idea that a minister's son should be an example to the other boys. Will explains that "a pastor's family walks a tightrope, balancing with one foot on earth and one foot already in heaven." When a chance visitor reveals that she has seen Hartzell at the movies, a pastime forbidden to Methodists, Will decides to accompany his son to the theater and point out why the film is bad for him. The scheduled film stars William S. Hart, and rather than finding the movie sinful, Will is charmed by it and the following Sunday, preaches a sermon advising his parishioners that young people may have something to teach their elders. Will finishes out the war years as an Army chaplain. The 1920s are a time of economic prosperity for the country, but not for the Spences, whose parsonage in Denver is coming apart at the seams. Will resolves to build a new church and parsonage, but his plans are thwarted by power struggles among the members of the church. He loses one wealthy church member, Mrs. Lydia Sandow, when he refuses to stop visiting her chauffeur and another after he replaces the off-key choir, headed by Mrs. Preston Thurston, with a children's choir. Soon, Hartzell is expelled from school because he is falsely accused of making a young girl pregnant. Will takes advantage of a job offer to seek out the girl's family in California, where they have moved, and learns that there is no truth to the rumor. Back in Denver, Will confronts the Thurstons, who started the rumors, and gives them a choice: he will call them out in church or they can contribute a large sum to the building fund. A year later, the church is built and the family is happily ensconced in a new parsonage. Their comfort is short-lived, however, because Will has accepted a new job, confident that he leaves behind a revitalized church. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.