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Heaven Can Wait

Gene Tierney , Don Ameche , Ernst Lubitsch    Unrated   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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The last masterwork by Ernst Lubitsch--whose other gems include Trouble in Paradise, Lady Windermere's Fan, Ninotchka, and The Shop Around the Corner--Heaven Can Wait was nominated for best picture and director Oscars in its day but largely neglected thereafter. Partly it's a matter of no one expecting a 1943 Fox movie featuring Don Ameche, the star of so many bland Technicolor musicals at that studio, to be a comedy of rare loveliness. Also, there's the confusion engendered by the existence of another film with the same title: the 1978 Warren Beatty movie that was the remake of a classic '40s comedy-fantasy--but Here Comes Mr. Jordan, not Heaven Can Wait. It's high time to get our priorities straight.

Following his demise, the aristocratic Henry Van Cleve (Ameche), having no hope of Paradise, betakes himself "where all his life so many people had told him to go." Hell, or at least its antechamber, would appear to be a luxury hotel in neoclassical mode, and--this is a Lubitsch movie, after all--His Satanic Excellency (Laird Cregar) is a perfect gentleman and the most gracious of hosts. To establish his credentials for spending eternity there, Henry begins to narrate a life which, though lacking any notable crimes, "has been one continuous misdemeanor."

Centered in a Fifth Avenue mansion left over from 19th-century New York, the film is Lubitsch and writing partner Samson Raphaelson's valentine to "an age that has vanished, when it was possible to live for the charm of living." Spanning more than half a century, it chronicles the high points of Henry's life so delicately that--in a variation on the strategies of Lubitsch-Raphaelson's risque '30s classics--it leaves some of them entirely offscreen, their emotional impact measured by what the characters feel and say about them afterward. We'll leave it to you to find out what they are. Suffice it to say that Ameche and Gene Tierney--as Martha, the love of Henry's life--give performances far subtler than anything else in their Fox contract-player careers, and there are sublime opportunities for those peerless character actors Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, and Marjorie Main. --Richard T. Jameson


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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
Format:VHS Tape
Heaven Can Wait can be viewed as the director's attempt to introduce a "Lubitch touch" of sophisticated European sexual morality and attitude into the uptight moral structure that ruled Hollywood films in the 1940s. Lubitch came from a world where sexual relationships were based on "laisons dangereux," games, and loose sensual connections which evoke the court romances of Versailles in the reign of Louis IV. Armed with this attitude, Lubitch took on this film with a passion because here was material that was truly his cup of tea--a handsome, sophisticated gentleman who can't say No to the ladies from his earliest teenage years to his old age. In fact, Henry van Cleve is clearly a philanderer, a womanizer and a cheat! His wife realizes this early in their marriage and wants a divorce, but is convinced by her sweet-talking husband to "stand by her man." In fact Mrs. van Cleve is well aware of his habits and accepts them with a quiet and chuckling acceptance--and continues to do so until she dies conveniently off-stage. Strangely, she feels that her husband is finally hers when she notices he has a "little tummy." Of course, Mr. V continues his lecherous ways until the very moment of his demise which the audience is led to believe was brought on by the pretty blonde nurse who enters his sick room. Lubitch's moral position is strange indeed for a 40s Hollywood film. Through the character of the Excellency, he literally excuses or absolves the husband from his marital vow to stay true to his wife. He accomplishes this by having the husband continually announce his undying love for his spouse--and having the wife believe it!.
Viewed from one angle, Lubitch seems to be saying that in the end it is the love of husband and wife that really counts. But I see it rather as Lubitch's sophisticated European approach to sex where "Love (all Love) Conquers All."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff Sept. 15 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
A surprisingly poignant and delightful movie, with rich sets and great acting. A good movie to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Henry Van Cleve's women July 23 2006
By bernie TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
Well it is that time Henry (Don Ameche) has finally kicked the bucket. He finds himself in the antechamber of the place down there. This has been expected so Henry who makes no excuses clarifies his complex womanizing life. The interrogator "His Excellency" (Laird Cregar) listens thoughtfully. We see examples of women that knew him and where they go. We also see the flashback reactions of his friends, relatives, and wife (Gene Tierney.)

So was the outcome pre-determined?
Will Henry meat the inevitable?
How does "His Excellency" view the events?

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It is now time to pick this up on Criterion. The extras add significantly to the story.

Here Comes Mr. Jordan
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Film Has Style But Little Substance Nov. 5 2001
Format:VHS Tape
What was the point of the film? That adultery is forgivable and one can actually end up in heaven? The film lacks the wit of earlier Lubitsch films such as "Shop Around the Corner". It's way too talky and lacks action. For example, viewers would've sympathized with Martha the scorned wife more had the film shown her witnessing her husband's infidelity. Don Ameche is competent as the lead but lacks the spark and roguish charm the role requires. I found it hard to believe women would find him irresistable and that his wife would want to stay married to him. This film could've eliminated several scenes not quite pertinent to its story, which dilutes the impact of the storyline. Don't buy this film. Rent it first.
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