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USA 1943
Directed by
Ernst Lubitsch
112 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Heaven Can Wait (1943)

Films that told the story of a man’s life against a backdrop of changing times were very popular in the 1940s (Citizen Kane is the best known example) and such is Ernst Lubitsch’s Heaven Can Wait.

It opens with the shade of Henry Van Cleave (Don Ameche) presenting himself to Hell’s gatekeeper (Laird Cregar) and tries to convince the latter that it is time to reap the rewards of his wicked life. And so we get the story of his life as the privileged scion of a wealthy New York family and in particular his relationship with women from his birth in 1872 to his death in 1943.  

The point of the film is not that Henry was a bad man but rather that he was a effortless charming lover of beautiful women and Lubitsch realizes this pleasantly escapist agenda with effortless charm. His only film in Technicolor, it is a lushly gorgeous affair, helped not a little by the beauty of Gene Tierney as the love of Henry’s life. Ameche does a good job of aging over some five decades and the film, which was based on a stage play, handles the changes that come with time in his character’s life with quiet finesse. With many readily recognizable names of the time such Eugene Pallette, Marjorie Main and Charles Coburn in support roles Heaven Can Wait is a quality production that will please fans of the golden years of Hollywood.




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