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Heaven Can Wait (1943)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | 13 August 1943 (USA)
An old roué arrives in Hades to review his life with Satan, who will rule on his eligibility to enter the Underworld.

Director:

Ernst Lubitsch

Writers:

Samson Raphaelson (screenplay), Leslie Bush-Fekete (play) (as Lazlo Bus-Fekete)
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Gene Tierney ... Martha Strabel Van Cleve
Don Ameche ... Henry Van Cleve
Charles Coburn ... Hugo Van Cleve
Marjorie Main ... Mrs. Strabel
Laird Cregar ... His Excellency
Spring Byington ... Bertha Van Cleve
Allyn Joslyn ... Albert Van Cleve
Eugene Pallette ... E.F. Strabel
Signe Hasso ... Mademoiselle
Louis Calhern ... Randolph Van Cleve
Helene Reynolds ... Peggy Nash
Aubrey Mather ... James
Tod Andrews ... Jack Van Cleve (as Michael Ames)
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Storyline

Henry Van Cleve presents himself at the gates of Hell only to find he is closely vetted on his qualifications for entry. Surprised there is any question on his suitability, he recounts his lively life and the women he has known from his mother onwards, but mainly concentrating on his happy but sometimes difficult twenty-five years of marriage to Martha. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

He believed in Love . . . Honor . . . and Obey - That Impulse! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

13 August 1943 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El diablo dijo no See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The lead was written with Fredric March or Rex Harrison in mind. Ernst Lubitsch was most disappointed when 20th Century Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck insisted on casting Don Ameche for commercial reasons. Lubitsch later recanted his opposition to Ameche, won over by the actor's dedication and professionalism. See more »

Goofs

When Henry first notices Martha in the department store at the telephones, a shadow of the camera rig falls across Martha as the scene and camera slides from right to left across the partition between the telephones. See more »

Quotes

Randolph Van Cleve: [coming out of his son's room] Well, this time I was firm!
Bertha Van Cleve: Good, Randolph. What happened?
Randolph Van Cleve: He asked for a hundred dollars, but I told HIM! I told him I'd let him have only fifty.
Bertha Van Cleve: Randolph!
Randolph Van Cleve: And not right away!
Bertha Van Cleve: For the first time in twenty-seven years of marriage I feel like criticizing you.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Rocket to Mars (1946) See more »

Soundtracks

The Sheik of Araby
(uncredited)
Music by Ted Snyder
Lyrics by Harry B. Smith and Francis Wheeler
Performed on-stage at the Follies
See more »

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User Reviews

 
I can safely say that my whole life was one continuous misdemeanor…Heaven Can Wait
6 September 2006 | by jaredmobarakSee all my reviews

Possibly my first true screwball comedy, definitely my first Ernst Lubitsch film, Heaven Can Wait lived up to the reputation of being a well made, laughter filled time. Sure it is a bit dated at times, but overall I believe the message and events occurring transcend age, probably due in small part to the fact that the film spans eighty or so years. Henry Van Cleve has passed away and knowing that he would probably have too much trouble getting into heaven, he decides to go to the place many have told him to go during life…hell.

I really enjoyed the rapport between Don Ameche (Van Cleve) and Laird Cregar (His Excellency/Satan). Cregar has a lot of charisma and is a nice change of pace from most guardians of the underworld. He has a strict code of rules, not just anyone can receive eternal damnation; one has to have earned it in spades. The fact that Ameche is trying to get in quickly, so as not to have to worry, is great, especially since he has to prove why. Of course as many stories of this ilk show, it's the women of his life that he must speak of to explain why he has sinned. It's a shame that there weren't any intercuts showing the two of them in Hell sitting and discussing Henry's life. The bookends to the film are nice, but it almost seems a shame to have seen Cregar so little.

Based on a play, Heaven Can Wait stands up well as a film. It is very much a dialogue driven movie, yet there are some great visual moments included as well. The script is great, sprinkled with dry sarcasm along with some laugh-out-loud moments and some surreal absurdities. Don Ameche is very effective as the Casanova who can't help himself even when he has the woman of his dreams. That woman, played by Gene Tierney, shows great comic timing to play off of the manipulative Ameche. She is a beautiful actress and can act very well. Tierney needs to play every emotion possible to show the ebbs and flows of their relationship while still retaining the love she has for her husband through all the tough times. Sure the whirlwind chance meeting which leads to their eloping is hilarious, and the rescue from Kansas plays out with almost a slapstick feel—especially between Tierney's character's parents and their funny papers—however, the real shining moment is their final dance together. Their love is displayed for all to see as they twirl in solitude while the rest of the party is seen through the opening between rooms. The moment is both beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.

I must say I was a big fan of the film and will seek out more Lubitsch in the future. Trouble in Paradise, available on Criterion DVD along with this film, and probably his most recognized work, Ninotchka with Greta Garbo, tops the list to check out. A great script, talented ensemble cast (look for comic genius from Charles Coburn and his baseball bat in heaven) as discussed, and superb make-up work (Don Ameche as eighty actually looks like he did at eighty, see Cocoon and a more cynical take on his character here in Trading Places) are molded deftly together to create a nostalgic look on life and those that one touches during his time on earth.


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