Heaven Can Wait

This page is about the films that were inspired by the 1938 stage play “Heaven Can Wait” by Harry Segall.

Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941) Down To Earth (1947) Heaven Can Wait (1978) Xanadu (1980)

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Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941) from Columbia Pictures
HERE COMES MR JORDAN (1941)

A picture different from anything ever screened before!

Released August 21, 1941 (US); December 19, 1941 (UK)
Here Comes Mr. Jordan is an American fantasy romantic comedy film in which a boxer, mistakenly taken to Heaven before his time, is given a second chance back on Earth. It stars Robert Montgomery, Claude Rains and Evelyn Keyes.

The film script was based on Harry Segall’s play Heaven Can Wait. The working titles for the film were Heaven Can Wait and Mr. Jordan Comes to Town.

Boxer Joe Pendleton, flying to his next fight, crashes…because a Heavenly Messenger, new on the job, snatched Joe’s spirit prematurely from his body. Before the matter can be rectified, Joe’s body is cremated; so the celestial Mr. Jordan grants him the use of the body of wealthy Bruce Farnsworth, who’s just been murdered by his wife. Joe tries to remake Farnsworth’s unworthy life in his own clean-cut image, but then falls in love; and what about that murderous wife? [IMDb.com]

Harry Segall won the Academy Award for Best Original Story, and the film also won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Nominations included: Best Picture, Montgomery for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

On January 26, 1942, Claude Rains, Evelyn Keyes and James Gleason reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast with Cary Grant, the original choice for the lead role, co-starring.

The original stage play made a short-lived revival in 1946 as “Wonderful Journey”, opening Dec 25, 1946 and closing Jan 1, 1947.

Here Comes Mr. Jordan was followed by Down to Earth (1947), in which two of the actors reprised their roles. James Gleason returned as the prizefighter’s manager and Edward Everett Horton as the entry clerk in Heaven, but brought back no central characters. This time, the rehearsal of a stage musical is subject to interference from a Goddess (Rita Hayworth) who has taken human form.

Here Comes Mr. Jordan was remade as Heaven Can Wait (1978), closely following the adaptation of the 1941 film. Warren Beatty played a football player this time out.

Xanadu (1980) remakes Down to Earth (1947) with Olivia Newton-John as the mythical figure taking human form. Gene Kelly shared the lead, using a character name he had opposite Rita Hayworth when they co-starred in a 1944 film.

Down to Earth (2001) is the third movie version of the original play. Chris Rock played a comic taken by Death before his time in this adaptation. Despite the title, this is not a remake of the 1947 film.

Notable Cast

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Robert Montgomery (1904-1981), “Joe Pendleton”

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Evelyn Keyes (1916-2008), “Bette Logan”

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Claude Rains (1889-1967), “Mr Jordan”

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James Gleason (1882-1959), “Max Corkle”

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Lloyd Bridges (1913-1998), “Mr. Sloan, the co-pilot”

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Down To Earth (1947) from Columbia Pictures
DOWN TO EARTH (1947)

She Sings And Dances like an Angel!

Released August 21, 1947 (US); September 1, 1947 (UK)
Down to Earth (1947) is a musical comedy sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941). While Edward Everett Horton and James Gleason reprise their roles from the earlier film, Roland Culver replaces Claude Rains as Mr. Jordan.

Upset about a new Broadway musical’s mockery of Greek mythology, the goddess Terpsichore comes down to earth and lands a part in the show. She works her charms on the show’s producer and he incorporates her changes into the show. Unfortunately, her changes also produce a major flop. [IMDb.com]

Xanadu (1980) remakes Down to Earth (1947) with Olivia Newton-John as the mythical figure taking human form. Gene Kelly shared the lead, using a character name he had opposite Rita Hayworth when they co-starred in a 1944 film.

Notable Cast

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Rita Hayworth (1917-1987), “Terpsichore”/”Kitty Pendleton” (singing voice was dubbed by Anita Ellis)

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Roland Culver (1900-1984), “Mr Jordan”

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Larry Parks (1914-1975), “Danny Miller” (singing voice was dubbed by Hal Derwin)

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James Gleason (1882-1959), “Max Corkle”

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Heaven Can Wait (1978) from Paramount Pictures
HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978)
Released June 28, 1978 (US)
Heaven Can Wait is an American fantasy-comedy film co-directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry. It was the second film adaptation of Harry Segall’s play of the same name, being preceded by Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941).

Joe Pendleton is a football quarterback preparing to lead his team to the Superbowl when he is almost killed in an accident. An overanxious angel plucks him to heaven only to discover that he was not ready to die, and that his body has been cremated. Another body must be found without his death being discovered, and that of a recently murdered millionaire is chosen. His wife and accountant, the murderers, are confused by this development, as he buys the Los Angeles Rams in order to once again quarterback them into the Superbowl. At the same time, he falls in love with an English environmental activist who disapproves of his policies and actions. [IMDb.com]

The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards. The cast reunites Beatty with Julie Christie and Jack Warden, who also starred together in McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) and Shampoo (1975), respectively.

In 2001, a third film adaptation of the play was produced, titled Down to Earth (not a remake of the 1947 sequel), starring Chris Rock.

Notable Cast

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Warren Beatty (1937-), “Joe Pendleton”/”Leo Farnsworth”/”Tom Jarrett”

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Julie Christie (1940-), “Betty Logan”

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James Mason (1909-1984), “Mr Jordan”

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Jack Warden (1909-2006), “Max Corkle”

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Charles Grodin (1935-), “Tony Abbott”

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Dyan Cannon (1937-), “Julia Farnsworth”

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Xanadu (1980) from Universal Pictures
XANADU (1980)

A Fantasy, A Musical, A Place Where Dreams Come True.

Released August 8, 1980 (US); September 18, 1980 (UK)
Xanadu is an American romantic musical fantasy film. The title is a reference to the nightclub in the film, which takes its name from Xanadu, the summer capital of Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty in China. This city appears in Kublai Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a poem that is quoted in the film. The film’s plot was inspired by the 1947 film Down to Earth.

The Greek muses incarnate themselves on Earth to inspire men to achieve. One of them, incarnated as a girl named Kira, encounters an artist named Sonny Malone. With the help of Danny McGuire, a man Kira had inspired forty years earlier, Sonny builds a huge disco roller rink. [IMDb.com]

Xanadu features music by its star, Olivia Newton-John, Electric Light Orchestra, Cliff Richard and The Tubes. The film also features animation by Don Bluth.

A box office flop, Xanadu earned mixed to negative critical reviews and was an inspiration for the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards to memorialise the worst films of the year. Despite the lacklustre performance of the film, the soundtrack album became a huge commercial success around the world, and was certified double platinum in the United States. The song “Magic” was a U.S. number one hit for Newton-John, and the title track (by Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra) reached number one in the United Kingdom and several other countries around the world.

Notable Cast

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Olivia Newton-John (1948-), “Kira”

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Michael Beck (1949-), “Sonny Malone”

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Gene Kelly (1912-1996), “Danny McGuire”

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Ira Newborn (1949-), “’40s Band Leader”

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Wilfred Hyde White (1903-1991), “Heavenly Voice #1”

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Sandahl Bergman (1951-), “Muse”
Partial soundtrack (Spotify playlist)
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