powered by AFI
Ginger Rogers was a rising star at RKO in 1933 having been a standout in several Warner Bros films and on the cusp of true stardom opposite Fred Astaire. But when she made Chance at Heaven (1933), it was just another programmer, neither hurting nor helping her career.
The story, based on Vina Delmar's Chance at Heaven, published in Liberty magazine's April 9, 1932 edition, was unusual, even for pre-Code Hollywood: Marje (Rogers) falls in love with gas station owner Blacky (Joel McCrea) and they become engaged. When the more glamorous rich girl Glory (Marian Nixon) arrives on the scene, she sets her sights for Blacky and the noble Marje steps aside. Glory and Blacky wed and it is Marje who helps Glory set up her house and tutors her on how to be a proper wife. In time the marriage breaks up and Marje gets her man. For Ginger Rogers, the film was memorable only because her co-star, Joel McCrea, was good friends with Rogers' current boyfriend (and future husband) Lew Ayers.
There were some cast and crew changes before production began, with William Seiter replacing Al Santell as director and Marian Nixon replacing Dorothy Wilson as Glory. Stage veteran Laura Hope Crews (best known as Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind, 1939), was mentioned by The Hollywood Reporter as being under consideration for a role (most likely that of Glory's mother, which went to Virginia Hammond), but did not appear in Chance at Heaven. McCrea's dim-witted gas station buddy was played by the always reliable Andy Devine, whose wheezy, high-pitched voice would make him a perennial favorite in Westerns in the latter half of the decade, most notably as the stagecoach driver in John Ford's Stagecoach (1939).
Chance at Heaven was quickly shot during August 1933 and was released on December 26th. Mordaunt Hall, in his review for The New York Times, wasn't overly impressed with the film, calling it "an innocuous domestic tangle [...] one of those frail, disarming features in which psychology is considered unimportant. The author and the director see to it that the leading characters fall in love and decide to part without much of an excuse in either case." Hall points out that "Glory, whose ignorance is her only asset, in that it causes her to be more or less amusing, is none too popular with the audience. Even her husband is somewhat of a lout. But Marje evidently knows how to treat such fickle men, for she wins Blacky back, but there is a doubt in one's mind as to whether he will be able to call his soul his own after they are man and wife." Rogers, who Hall praised for her dancing in the recently released Flying Down to Rio (1933), "acts the part better than it deserves", with McCrea giving "quite a satisfactory performance" and Nixon doing "reasonably well" as Glory.
Producer: H.N. Swanson
Director: William Seiter
Screenplay: Sarah Y. Mason, Julian Josephson; Vina Delmar (story "A Chance at Heaven")
Cinematography: Nick Musuraca
Art Direction: Perry Ferguson, Van Nest Polglase
Film Editing: James B. Morley
Cast: Ginger Rogers (Marjorie 'Marje'/'Mug' Harris), Joel McCrea (Blackstone 'Blacky' Gorman), Marion Nixon (Glory Franklyn), Andy Devine (Al), Lucien Littlefield (Mr. Fred Harris), Virginia Hammond (Mrs. S.T. Franklyn), George Meeker (Sid Larrick), Ann Shoemaker (Mrs. 'Mother' Harris).
BW-71m. Closed Captioning.
by Lorraine LoBianco
AFI Catalog of Feature Film
Hall, Mordaunt "Chance at Heaven: Ginger Rogers, Marian Nixon and Joel McCrea in a Harmless Domestic Tangle" The New York Times 26 Dec 1933
Rogers, Ginger My Story