Flashback "Heaven Can Wait" Has More than one Film Version

by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor

When you watch the 1973 "Heaven Can Wait" flashback with Warren Beatty and Buck Henry, the premise has a pro football player taken to heaven before his time. That leads the angel on a corrective mission --- put Beatty back in another body. This version has him become a greedy multimillionaire industrialist who eventually falls for an environmental activist played by Julie Christie.

However, the premise conforms more to "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" (1941) in which boxer Joe (Robert Montgomery) perishes in a plane crash on the way to a championship fight. The angel, Mr. Jordan (Edward Everett Horton) plucks him too soon from the plane leaving Jordan confronted with a repeatedly fruitless quest to place him in a "body" that has boxing championship contentions. Joe plays a clarinet and, of course, he had a dame. 

The title "Heaven Can Wait," (1943), originally featured Don Ameche  as a spoiled playboy at the gateway to Hell, only the devil (or his agent) played by Laird Cregar doesn't believe that the soul has come to the right destination. Ameche directed by famed 40s comedic director Ernst Lubitisch must "convince" the pitchfork man that he did enough bad deeds (including an affair during his 20 plus year marriage to Gene Tierney) to qualify for the Lake of Fire. 

On the 1978 version, back on the big screen Sunday July 8 and Wednesday, July 11, at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m. at select Marquee Cinemas , Beatty and Henry served as co-directors.

There's many "heaven/hell" fantasies from the 40s, including "Between Two Worlds" (1944, a remake of Outward Bound , 1930)  in which John Garfield. Paul Henreid and Eleanor Parker find themselves aboard a flying dutchman filled with the soul of people killed in a London bombing. 


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