Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Heaven Can Wait (1943)

Here's my homework assignment after watching this heavenly film.

View another movie that's penned by Samson Raphaelson (Suspicion, The Shop Around the Corner).


heaven can wait 1943 is a delight for the eyes, with its gorgeous use of Technicolor, and the ears with a sharp script that delivers some very funny lines.

A dead Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) prepares to meet Satan after his earthly demise. His Excellency (Laird Cregar) isn't familiar with the less-than-saintly actions that prompted Van Cleve to take the down stairs to his desk.

Van Cleve tells his story and all of the women he crossed paths with since entering the world with a very rich New York City family in the late 1800s.


Henry's main ambition is burning through the money his family has earned. He stays up all hours of the night as a partyboy. He decides to straighten up his ways when he happens upon Martha (Gene Tierney). "I might even go to work," Henry suggests about her powerful sway over him.

There are several standout scenes in this 1943 effort from Ernst Lubisch (The Shop Around the Corner).

An early one happens when Henry pretends to be a bookstore employee when Martha tries to buy a book about making a husband happy. He senses she's not overly keen about the fella she's going to tie the knot with. Turns out her potential better half is Henry's cousin, the all work and no fun Albert Van Cleve (Allyn Joslyn).

Martha is the daughter of a Kansas-based meat packer E.F. Strable (Eugene Pallette). He gets the best opening line of any character in this film. Another scene worth savouring is his verbal tussle, with a butler's help, with his wife (Marjorie Main) over the Sunday funnies.


Charles Coburn (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Monkey Business) delivers solid suport as Hugo Van Cleve, the grandfather who earned the family fortune and has a soft spot for Henry, even if he's a lazy oaf.

For all its fun, Heaven Can Wait also explores mortality -- watch for a neat montage of birthday cakes with an ever-growing number of candles -- and relationships. The Strables don't have much of a marriage. Henry loves Martha, but his eye does wonder . . .

Helene Reynolds didn't have a long career in Hollywood. She only appeared in 14 titles between 1941 and 1948. But she has a solid appearance near the film's end as Peggy Nash, a show girl who has caught the affections of Henry's son, Jack (Tod Andrews, Beneath the Planet of the Apes). Nash is on to Henry's ways to prevent a family scandal and quickly turns the tables on him.

Don't put off seeing this film. Make a date with Heaven Can Wait.

RATING: 9/10

FUN FACTS: Spring Byington, who appears as Henry's mother, had guest spots on several 1960s television series including I Dream of Jeannie. Batman and Mister Ed. See if you can find her in the original Mutiny on the Bounty.

Marjorie Main appeared as Ma Kettle in several Ma Kettle films.

Gene Tierney was the star of the great American film noir, Laura.

Film editor Dorothy Spencer's other credits include To Be or Not to Be, also directed by Ernst Lubisch, and My Darling Clementine.

Don Ameche was one of the featured voice talents in Homeward Bound - The Incredible Journey

NOT SO FUN FACT: Laird Cregar's career was painfully short. He only made 16 films before dying in 1944 at 31.

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