US movie (1941). Columbia. Pr Everett Riskin. Dir Alexander Hall. Screenplay Sidney Buchman, Seton I Miller. Based on the play Heaven Can Wait by Harry Segall. Starring John Emery (Tony Abbott), James Gleason (Maxie Corkle), Edward Everett Horton (Messenger #7013), Rita Johnson (Julia Farnsworth), Evelyn Keyes (Bette Logan), Donald MacBride (Inspector Williams), Robert Montgomery (Joe Pendleton/Bruce Farnsworth/Ralph K O Murdock), Claude Rains (Mr Jordan). 93 mins. B/w.
Prizefighter Pendleton is snatched prematurely from his plummeting aircraft by an overanxious Angel, Messenger #7013; his body is swiftly cremated by his grieving manager, Corkle. The angel's boss, the saturnine Mr Jordan, leads Pendleton back to Earth to find a replacement body/life. As a Ghost Pendleton falls in love with Logan, whose father has been defrauded by playboy banker Farnsworth. To kill two birds with one stone, Pendleton possesses (see Possession) Farnsworth's body when the banker is drowned by his wife and her lover, Abbott. Yet his destiny, according to Jordan, is to become world boxing champion and live until 1991 ...
Couched as a Tall Tale told by Corkle, this is not so much a Posthumous Fantasy as an Identity-Exchange story. Its somewhat confused moral is that everything is preordained and that no one is cheated of the destiny they deserve. Limbo is presented as a cloud-strewn featureless plain from which aircraft transport Souls to their final destination – an image picked up later in A Matter of Life and Death (1946).
In a musical semi-sequel to HCMJ, Down to Earth (1947), an attempt was made to recreate Mr Jordan, now played by Roland Culver: Jordan facilitates Terpsichore's efforts to help a Broadway producer mount a stage show featuring her persona. Down to Earth was remade as Xanadu (1980) starring Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton-John. The title of Segall's original play was used for the unrelated movie Heaven Can Wait (1943). HCMJ was remade as Heaven Can Wait (1978), with Pendleton as an LA Rams quarterback rather than a prizefighter. [JG]