Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Pennies From Heaven (1978)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Episode 1 - 'Down Sunnyside Lane'Originally transmitted on BBC1 7th March 1978

1935: England during the Great Depression. Arthur Parker, a cockney songsheet salesman, believes in the sugary sentiments of the songs he peddles. When he is refused sex by his repressed wife Joan, he suddenly appears to burst into song, lip-synching to the voice of Elsie Carlisle singing 'The Clouds Will Soon Roll By'. Back in mundane 'reality', Arthur drives to Gloucester in a desperate attempt to sell his sheet music. En route, he nearly runs over a stammering epileptic old tramp, The Accordion Man, whose plight strangely seems to mirror his own. Meanwhile, at home, Joan receives a visit from a smooth vacuum cleaner salesman. When he tries to seduce her with a kiss, Joan spurns his advances, in the same way as she had earlier spurned Arthur's.

In Gloucester, Arthur is awestruck by the appearance in a music shop of Eileen Everson, a demure schoolteacher who seems to represent the kind of girl he dreams about in the songs. Following her out of the shop, he watches as she puts two pennies in the hat of The Accordion Man, who is playing hymns on a street corner. Later, Arthur briefly spies Eileen in a pub but when she flees his initial approach, he has to make do with an adulterous fling with a local goodtime girl he picks up in the bar. In his head, however, he dreams of himself and Eileen dancing 'cheek to cheek'.

Back home in London with Joan, Arthur attempts to persuade her to give him access to her late father's money to help his business. When she refuses, and later, when she is completely unresponsive to his lovemaking, Arthur lies in bed lip-synching to the words of 'Down Sunnyside Lane', tears glistening in his eyes.