Chance at Heaven (1933)

Blacky Gorman (Joel McCrea) and Marje Harris (Ginger Rogers) are young and in love. They’ve been casually dating for a couple of years, and Blacky is finally ready to propose, having found success as a gas station owner. Their future is set.

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(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

One day, though, Glory Franklyn (Marian Nixon) comes veering into Blacky’s life. She visits his gas station, nearly tearing the place down with her car. But for Glory, it’s love at first sight when she meets Blacky.

Despite Marje’s devotion to him, and their plans to start a life together, Blacky decides to elope with Glory instead. Complications ensue as Blacky butts heads with Glory’s mother, and must face the consequences of how he treated Marje.

Chance at Heaven was directed by William Seiter. The screenplay was written by Julian Josephson and Sarah Y. Mason from a story by Vina Delmar.

Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea killed me (in the best way) in 1940’s Primrose Path. A pre-code starring the pair meant high expectations from me.

Rogers and McCrea are certainly adorable. Early on in the film we see them share a playful relationship, and that same great chemistry I enjoyed so much in Primrose Path.

But sadly, it doesn’t last. Their potential future together is ruined by a socialite… and the film becomes, honestly, one of the most frustrating I’ve ever watched!

A love triangle ensues, but not of the usual type. Rather than get jealous or ditch Blacky from her life completely, Marje remains devoted to him. She becomes friends with Glory. She even, in secret, goes to great lengths to keep Blacky happy in his marriage to another woman… teaching Glory how to cook his favorite dinner, for example.

I guess it’s in a way admirable that she values him and their friendship enough to overcome her jealousy and put in so much effort… but she needs to love herself! The viewer feels for her, but at the same time wants to slap some sense into her.

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(Image via The Blonde at the Film)

For her part, even though she broke up the McCrea/Rogers pair, Glory is difficult to hate. She’s lived such a sheltered life under her mother’s thumb. She seems to genuinely love Blacky and be excited for their future together. Marian Nixon is very sweet in the role, throughout most of the film. She also has some fantastically wacky ’30s outfits, which I found endearing.

The fault here lies solely on Blacky. He does Marje so wrong, and he’s a terrible decision-maker. The tension between Blacky and Glory’s mother adds an interesting element to the film, but I found it difficult to care about, since I was too busy wishing the worst on Blacky.

I can’t recommend this one too highly, unless you plan on watching it in the company of a punching bag. (You’ll need one, unless you’d rather direct your anger at/potentially destroy your television.) The performances are fine, and the fact that it drew such a strong reaction from me is worth something, but next time I want to watch Ginger and Joel, I’ll just re-watch Primrose Path.

 

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