A financially strapped civilian, Shand has to work to get ahead, be a doctor or maybe a lawyer, what with the G.I. Bill and all. But he needs an income now, and, after a try at encyclopedia selling, he turns to selling funeral insurance to poor blacks who can scarcely scratch together the necessary $1.25 a week. His boss Sam (George Wendt, in an amusingly derivative Welles-Ives turn) warns him not to cover for his poor clients if they can’t make a payment, and if they can’t pay after two weeks, they lose everything they’ve put into the fund. There goes the gorgeous funeral, the ornate casket, the fancy limo ride to the cemetery — and friends standing up to have a last say.
Shand bumps into old Vesta Battle (Cicely Tyson), who draws him into tea, cookies and her life. Fond of her, he’s soon covering for her. Their scenes are rich with growing affection, and they have a sweet and touching adventure in the countryside where she once lived.
Shand and Leslie talk of marriage, but fetching Claire’s hot on his trail and his head’s turned. Vesta helps him make up his mind.
Taken from a story by Allan Gurganus, co-exec producer Eliason’s script doesn’t scrub any tenderness off the open, touching tale. Advantage of the vidpic and story is the purity and dependability of its traditional characters, its heart.
It’s a delight to see innocence and freshness and commitment in action again; “The Price of Heaven” does just that. There’s easy wit, amusing and endearing people, and Show’s vulnerable Jerry, Tyson’s slyly intuitive, stylized Vesta and Loughlin’s loyal Leslie.
All the actors shine, and Ronn Schmidt’s camerawork clearly conveys a 1950s air of cleanliness. It’s all helped by production designer Norm Baron’s insightful North Carolina locales.