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"One Foot in Heaven" is a lot better than it ought to be. Basically it's nothing more than the time-worn saga of the kindly country minister--he could just as well have been a doctor or a lawyer--and his self-sacrificing wife who endure a multitude of hardships and finally win the happiness they're looking for. It's an old story; and when it's carried out at too great length, as is done in this film, it's an old story; and when it's carried out at too great length, as is done in this film, it's a rather boring one.
But "One Foot in Heaven" is boosted above the mediocrity of its essential dullness by a pair of fine and sensitive performances by Frederick March and Martha Scott, and by a smooth directorial touch that irons out many of the rough spots, though too many are still left. Some of its scenes are superbly handled: the minister's effort to show his son the evil of motion pictures by accompanying him to a Wild West Nickelodeon, for example, is a brilliantly carried out piece of work. And there are a number of others equally well done.
Some day Hollywood is going to make everyone very happy by letting Martha Scott stay young for more than 10 or 15 minutes per film. Here again she manages--with the aid of the make-up department--to begin growing old as soon as the picture begins. She does it well, to be sure, but she's going to wind up having lived more lives than a multitude of cats. March equals her fine performance, and manages to gain gray hair in the process, too.
If it were shorter, more compact, and perhaps a little less heroic in tone, "One Foot in Heaven" might rank as one of the outstanding movies of the year. As it is, it's rather tiring and dull. But its high-spots are worth seeing; they make you wish there were more of them.
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