Here Comes Mr. Jordan / Heaven Can Wait

D: Alexander Hall
Columbia (Everett Riskin)
US 1941
93 mins


W: Sidney Buchman & Seton I. Miller [based on the play "Heaven Can Wait" by Harry Segall]
DP: Joseph Walker
Ed: Viola Lawrence
Mus: Frederick Hollander

Robert Montgomery (Joe Pendleton), Evelyn Keyes (Bette Logan), Claude Rains (Mr. Jordan), Rita Johnson (Julia Farnsworth), Edward Everett Horton (Messenger No.7013), James Gleason (Max Corkle)

Capra-esque style fantasy from the early 1940's, starring Robert Montgomery as Joe Pendleton, a saxophone-playing prize fighter whose soul is plucked from his body prematurely by a novice guardian angel. The error is discovered too late to return Joe to his body which has since been cremated, so Joe must continue his life in another body, which he trains up for the big boxing match at the end of the movie.
Golden age Hollywood storytelling at its best, with good performances from Montgomery, James Gleason and especially Claude Rains as Mr. Jordan.
The film was later remade in 1978 as Heaven Can Wait (the original play's title) and in 2001 as Down To Earth.

Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Here Comes Mr. Jordan

D: Warren Beatty & Buck Henry
Paramount (Warren Beatty)
US 1978
101 mins


W: Warren Beatty & Elaine May [based on the play by Harry Segall]
DP: William A. Fraker
Ed: Robert C. Jones & Don Zimmermann
Mus: David Grusin
PD: Paul Sylbert
Cos: Theadora Van Runkle & Richard Bruno         

Warren Beatty (Joe Pendleton), Julie Christie (Betty Logan), James Mason (Mr. Jordan), Dyan Cannon (Julia Farnsworth), Charles Grodin (Tony Abbott), Jack Warden (Max Corkle), Buck Henry (The Escort)

This remake of 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan (qv) saw Warren Beatty ape Orson Welles' achievement of being Oscar nominated for producing, directing, co-writing and starring in a motion picture.
I have to say that I found Beatty's performance as Joe Pendleton quite wooden and nowhere near as earnest as Robert Montgomery’s take on the same character in the original film, but the direction and writing of this remake are where it excels. Some minor changes are made, with boxing from the original film being replaced by American Football when star quarterback, Joe Pendleton has a car accident and his soul is whisked from his body by a premature guardian angel. On his entry into heaven, Joe discovers it wasn't yet his time to die, but cannot return to his previous body, only to one which hasn't been discovered dead yet - so he steps into the shoes of a billionaire businessman, who was recently assassinated by his adulterous wife and her lover.
Once in his new body, he tries to live as he had previously, though not even his dearest friends recognise him in his new form, while he also vies for the affections of an environmentalist who voices discontent with the tycoons business practices.
While the fantasy was far more engaging in the original version, Heaven Can Wait generally does a good job updating the story for the 1970's. Good, old-fashioned Hollywood escapism.

Warren Beatty & Buck Henry in Heaven Can Wait
Warren Beatty & Buck Henry in Heaven Can Wait