Heaven Can Wait (1943)

Heaven Can Wait (1943), produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

After death, a society gentleman who has lived pretty well wants to be admitted to Hell. He tells his life story to "His Excellency" -- a sort of St Peter of the infernal regions, I think -- which actually contains very little that is terrifically bad. He married his cousin's fiancée and was perhaps not perfectly faithful to her.

Ah, yes: the story of his regrets is the story of his love for her.

After the witty genius of Trouble in Paradise (1932), Design for Living (1933) and To Be or Not to Be (1942) this one is much more slack. The second half frankly drags. I know it is well-loved but the humor is sporadically joke-oriented and uninvolving. More fire from Gene Tierney's character would have helped.

I did have one big laugh: the helpful French maid reassures our disgruntled teen protagonist "Your soul is bigger than your pants!"

I know that filming in Technicolor was a big cumbersome operation: did that hamper the director's style?

It does give us a chance to see familiar faces in color: Don Ameche, Gene Tierney (also in Technicolor in Leave Her to Heaven (1945)), Charles Coburn, Marjorie Main, Eugene Pallette, Laird Cregar.

I never paid much attention to actor Allyn Joslyn, but here he is great as the earnestly dull Cousin Albert. Charles Coburn tries to save the picture as the rascal grandpa.

The film Heaven Can Wait (1978) with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie is unrelated and is actually a remake of Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941), which was based on play called Heaven Can Wait for even more confusion.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion. No commentary track.