Jun 4, 2011

Movie Review: Heaven Can Wait (1943)

Last night I wanted to see a Classic Movie with my parents. My mom suggested Rebel without a case and my dad said he'd prefer a "light comedy". I haven't seen Rebel... but it's probably very dramatic and I didn't want to see something sad on Friday night, so I decided to pick a comedy.

Well, I remembered that Heaven Can Wait (1943; Ernst Lubitsch) was very good when I saw it like 2 years ago and I wanted to re-watch it. I didn't exactly remember all the events, but I did remember a scene in a bookshop, a cool Devil, a nice grandpa and Gene Tierney and Don Ameche growing old. And because it was directed by Ernst Lubitsch I thought it had to have some funny scenes.

My mom loved this cross-stitch presentation :)
Old Don Ameche dies and goes to Hell. But before he enters, he starts chatting about his life with Mr. Devil himself. He remembers his whole life, which was marked since his childhood because he was an incurable Casanova. This fact didn't change when he met the love of his life, Gene Tierney; not even when he grew old. Is this enough to go to Hell? Devil will tell.

This movie has some memorable scenes and characters. I like when Don pretends to be a bookshop salesclerk to talk with Gene. She's about to get married and she's (embarrassedly) looking for a book called How to make your husband happy...

I also love Charles Coburn as the kind grandpa. He's always making funny remarks, supporting his grandson and trying to help him with Gene. Eugene Pallette (I always think of him as Carole Lombard's dad in My Man Godfrey, but he's great in many movies of course) and Marjorie Main were good too as Mr. and Mrs. Strable, Gene's folks from Kansas. 

But there's a secondary character that steals the movie and he only has two scenes: Clarence Muse as Japer, the Strable's buttler. Enjoy:

My gosh, the funny papers :) 

But there are also things that I don't like. I can't stand the main character as a kid or teenager. I know he is supposed to be a spoiled brat, but the whole thing with Mademoiselle is pretty boring and the actor is over the top, in my opinion. That's why I found myself waiting for Don Ameche to appear ASAP.

The other thing I don't like is some parts of the dialog: at some point it gets very...(opens a dictionary in a new window)...pompous, for example, when Don is explaining what he felt when he met Gene:
Mother...when you saw Father for the first time, did you feel that unmistakable something? Did you feel an electric spark from your head right down to your toes that swept over you like a hurricane and threw you to the ground but you bounced up again and floated over the treetops?
Yeah, pretty poetic, but nobody talks like that and it made poor Don having to accompany the dialog with some facial expressions that were equally over the top.

Don's cousin, the nerd lawyer, is another thing that distracts me, because he's very stereotyped. I hate stereotyped characters. 

The final thing I don't like...is Gene's hairstyle when she's old. Is it historically appropriate? Probably. Makes her look like a wagon passed over her head and distracts you all the time? Definitively. 

She also looks like Minnie Mouse.
Heaven can wait is a memorable movie, nevertheless. I love the way it presents Hell (at least the "reception hall") and the Devil; it has a wonderful cast (if you don't count the kids); great scenes and an entertaining story. My dad liked it, but he said that it wasn't really a light comedy. It dawn on me that older people might experience it different, since it deals with aging, death, etc. And my mom fell asleep (she's a morning lark), so I couldn't tell.

On a side note, watching Gene Tierney is always bittersweet when you know how much this gorgeous woman suffered in real life. Tonight I'm going to watch Biography Channel's Gene Tierney: A shattered portrait on Youtube to see if I find a happy fact in her life that makes me forget the rest. I wish I could get a copy of her Self Portrait. 

Well, that's all folks! Hope you have a great weekend. 


  1. Your comment about Gene's hairstyle made me laugh, "Like a wagon passed over her head" !!
    You're also write that it's very poignant watching Gene Tierney on screen I always feel exactly the same way.

  2. Judging from the clips, this sounds like a fun movie!

  3. I own a copy of Self Portrait and while it's a great thing to have, it's frustratingly vague in certain sections. I think it's a result of Tierney's memory loss after the procedures done to her in the mental hospital. It feels very stitched-together. But you do get a sense of Tierney as being a very gracious, considerate woman. She won't badmouth anyone, not even people that were known to be complete bastards to work with.

    She does tell a funny story that when she was young, her coworkers teased her for being "Miss Malaprop" and dropping the wrong word whenever she was excited. At a party, she blurted out, "Can't you understand that I'm infested with my career?"

  4. Thanks for your kind comment Paul, I really appreciate the feedback :) And yeah, Gene's life was so terrible, you just can't forget that fact while watching her on the screen :(

  5. It is, Audrey! I love movies that present fantasy elements, plus there are some great scenes, Don Ameche is very likable even when his character is not and Gene Tierney looks stunning...at least before the weird hairdo :)

  6. Rachel, thanks for the detailed comment, I really appreciate it since I haven't found a copy of the book. LOL to that anecdote, I had to google what Malaprop meant but once I understood it was really funny :) Nice to hear she was a nice lady, I imagined she was. It's sad that she suffered so much, you're probably right, I mean after the electroshock treatment it must had been a great challenge to write a detailed book :( Thanks for visiting.

  7. Thou shalt not pass up Rebel Without A Cause! I assume you haven't seen any James Dean movies?

  8. Loved this review! I adore Gene Tierney but haven't seen this film so will definitely be checking it out. Self-Portrait is a fabulous book and I hope you're able to get a copy of it ASAP

  9. Hi, Steven! Uhm, I've seen "East of Eden", "Giant" & "Has anybody seen my gal" :) I didn't want to see a sad movie on a Friday night, but I'll see "Rebel Without a case"... eventually :) Thanks for the recommendation and thanks for visiting!

  10. Thanks Kendra! Well, Gene Tierney looks stunning in this film, but like Rick said over Twitter "she had juicier roles in pics like Leave Her to Heaven." Her role is nice anyway. I do hope I can find a copy of Self Portrait, but most copies are not shipped to Chile (at least on Amazon). Thanks for visiting :)

  11. Sounds like it's worth a watch! Your comment about her hair made me giggle as it's quite true judging by the photo.

    Hope you see Rebel Without a Cause soon. I'm actually re-watching it tonight.

  12. Clara, your review of HEAVEN CAN WAIT was witty and entertaining, as always! The flowery dialogue didn't bother me, because I chalked it up to the "Gay Nineties" setting, Besides, it's Lubitsch, for Heaven's sake! :-) Great cast, including not only the leads, but also character actors like Allyn Joslyn (even if he IS playing a nerd lawyer who won't stand for sneezing during concerts :-)) and one of Team Bartilucci's faves, Laird Cregar as a dapper Devil! Yes, watching Gene Tierney is bittersweet when you consider her sad life (I watched the BIOGRAPHY episode about her when I was researching LAURA for my current blog post, since the episode was included on the LAURA DVD), but I make myself focus on Tierney's character in the film, and it works out fine.

  13. Hi, Sasha, welcome back :) Yeah, it's really worth a watch, a real classic! OK, BY POPULAR demand I'll see "Rebel without a case" and suffer. The things I do for you guys. I'll tell you what I though about it soon ;) Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Awww, Dorian, thank you! Flowery (THAT'S THE WORD I WANTED TO USE!!) language is never ever welcome in my house, so don't try to defend it ; ) Just kidding, if Gary Cooper, Cary Grant or Errol Flynn talk like that, I don't care!!! I have to check more movies from Allyn and Laird Cregar (his name sounds a bit devilish: "Hi, poor soul, I'm LAIRD CREGAR and I've come for you!"), thanks for the rec! And, well, yes poor Gene, I guess you have to do that with many actors whose lives were real tragedies...Thanks for stopping by!!

  15. Thanks and you're welcome, Clara! :-) Laird Cregar specialized in villains, though he was itching to be a leading man. Things ended sadly for him, alas, but I don't want to depress you, considering our discussions here about poor Gene Tierney. (We need more celebrities who have happy endings!) On a related note, both Laird Cregar and Allyn Joslyn co-starred in I WAKE UP SCREAMING, which I covered recently in TALES OF THE EASILY DISTRACTED, if you want more lowdowns on Laird:


    Oh, and yes, I agree that Tierney's old-age hairdo DID make her look like a wagon wheel ran over her! How could anyone even STYLE hair to look like that? Eek! :-)

  16. [Replied over your great post :)] But yeah, Gene's hairdo WAS weird!

  17. Agreed. The young Henry was a real brat. I was wondering if I was going to like the adult Henry any better. I did. Great supporting cast helps make Heaven Can Wait divine entertainment.

  18. @Reel Popcorn Junkie Hi, there, nice you agree with me about that annoying little brat! Agreed, the supporting cast is superb, maybe one of the most memorable aspects of the movie. Thanks for stopping by, I really appreciate it :)

  19. When Gene Tierney walks in the room to meet the family for the first time she takes your breath away, i'm 25 and only Gene Tierney & Grace Kelly are the only actresses that have took my breath away, no actress today has.



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