Film-Forward Review: [HERE COMES MR. JORDAN]

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Directed by: Alexander Hall.
Produced by: Everett Riskin.
Written by: Sidney Buchman & Seton I. Miller, based on the play Heaven Can Wait by Harry Segall.
Director of Photography: Joseph Walker.
Edited by: Viola Lawrence.
Music by: Frederick Hollander.
Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Country of Origin: USA. 94 min. Not Rated.
With: Robert Montgomery, Claude Rains, Evelyn Keyes, Rita Johnson, Edward Everett Horton, James Gleason & John Emery.
DVD Features: English & French audio. English, Japanese & Portuguese subtitles.

Strikingly restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, this still zesty comedy was based on the play Heaven Can Wait, the same title as its 1978 remake by Warren Beatty. Strangely, Here Comes Mr. Jordan won two Academy Awards for best screenplay and best original story. (Now the awards are simply delineated between best original and adapted screenplay.)

At the helm of his plane, Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery) takes a nose drive on his way to a boxing match, but his body is snatched up by Messenger 7013 (the great character actor Edward Everett Horton) before it hits the ground. In doing so, the overeager novice has prematurely dispatched Joe to heaven 50 years too soon. Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains), a maitre d' of the afterlife, placates a flustered Joe by offering to send him back to earth in another body, a Wall Street fat cat about to be killed by his adulterous wife. Weary at first, Joe agrees to the offer. The incentive: to help a beautiful dewy-eyed ingénue.

You know you’re in good hands at the appearance of Horton, who’s at his most flabbergasted and prissy, but the congenial Rains, with his constant grin, feels restrained compared to his other more shaded roles of this period (Phantom of the Opera or Casablanca). The appealing theme of predestination is expressed by his Mr. Jordan when he patiently explains to the simple but honest Joe, “You cannot change the course of your destiny,” making this one of the few rom-coms expressly for Presbyterians. Remarkably, Beatty’s version, faithful in spirit, is just as light on its feet even with the updated dialogue, but with fewer double takes than Jordan even with Dyan Cannon’s hysterical turn as the black widow wife.

Appearing on DVD for the first time, the disc offers zip in terms of extras. Even the menu selection doesn’t offer images or audio from the film. With a strong cast, the film deserves a commentary to offer background on Robert Montgomery, who, besides being the father of Bewitched’s Elizabeth Montgomery, had a long career on both stage and screen; Claude Rains; or character actor James Gleason, who plays Joe’s crusty trainer Max (what else would he be called?) Years earlier, Gleason cowrote the screenplay for the first sound film to win the Best Picture Academy Award, Broadway Melody (1929). Kent Turner
February 6, 2007



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