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My experience of comedies targeted at family audiences in the 1940s has generally been negative as The Bishop's Wife (1947) was dreadfully unfunny and The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) didn't even register a chuckle. Darker, more subversive romantic comedies from the era like The Lady Eve (1941) are positively hilarious and entertained me greatly with their clever wordplay and well timed slapstick. A film like this one, which had it's concept carried over to the Warren Beatty directed Best Picture nominee Heaven Can Wait (1978), is so bland and generic that it is hard to see why it was such a hit. I suppose when considering the fact that World War II was occurring this film was a form of escapism but I would want more bang for my buck than this film provides.
Professional boxer Joe Pendleton, Robert Montgomery, has his life cut short when he has an accident while flying his plane and the vehicle crashes to earth. He is prematurely killed when an overeager angel, Edward Everett Horton, chooses to save him from the pain of what he assumes will be a slow, difficult death but it is discovered that he made the wrong decision. Pendleton is given the opportunity to get placed in a new body by the angel's overseer Mr. Jordan, Claude Rains, and much to his chagrin assumes the identity of businessman Bruce Farnsworth. He does so because he wants to help Betty Logan, Evelyn Keyes, who has had her father sent to prison as a result of Farnsworth's fraud. He faces new threats as Farnsworth with his wife Julia, Rita Johnson, and his secretary Tony Abbott, John Emery, having plotted to kill him before Pendleton entered his body. He longs to return to boxing as he learns that he is destined to become world champion but as his romance with Logan develops he finds the prospect of leaving Farnsworth's body unappealing.
Much like it's remake I never found this film very funny as the characters from whom the hilarity should be derived are even more buttoned up here than they were in the 1970s version. Julia and Abbott should make a more comedic version of Phyllis Dietrichson and Walter Neff but instead there seems to be a strange disconnect between them as while we should be able to believe that they were having an affair and are in cahoots they are each so chilly that it seems impossible that they would have a romance or enough passion to kill a man. Johnson came across more as a Greer Garson type than a Barbara Stanwyck and delivered her lines as though she were in a Gainsborough melodrama not a light comedy in which she is the bumbling villain. As a leading character the various quirks that Pendleton had were not funny but just mildly annoying and his constant exasperation did not have the genius of Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve.
The dramatic elements of the film, namely the romance between Farnsworth and Logan, never quite got off the ground as the ‘love' between the two comes to be his main motivation for living with very little on screen development. She is one of the proper, un-emotive British ladies that was so popular during this time period but with so many of them it is hard to be impressed by their composed features and strength in times of great stress. Montgomery played the scenes of wooing between himself and his love interest as he did all of the other scenes in the film which made it hard to feel any chemistry between himself and his lady love. He mostly stands back, ogles her and tells his male accomplices how attractive she is but I was never quite in support of their union. At least you get that final scene in the 1970s version where Beatty displays his charm as he asks Julie Christie out for coffee and she accepts with a knowing smile. This film has no scene like that and we don't get the excitement of a burgeoning romance at the end of the film but a dull note that seals the films fate as a piece of unmemorable wartime entertainment not suitable for audiences all these years later.
Blobbo sucker for stuff like this.
I am just going to use two words for the review...Max Corkle
Robert Montgomery plays saxophone-playing boxer Joe Pendleton, who insists upon piloting his own plane, much to the consternation of his manager Max Corkle (James Gleason). Just before a championship bout, Joe's plane crashes. When he revives, he finds he has been whisked away to Heaven by the overanxious Messenger #7013. Checking with the man in charge, one Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains), Pendleton discovers that he isn't scheduled to die for another 50 years. Joe heads back to earth, only to learn to his chagrin that his body has been cremated. Mr. Jordan is obliged to find Joe a new body; the "candidate" is a business mogul named Farnsworth, who is in the process of being murdered in his bath by his wife (Rita Johnson) and her lover (John Emery). Joe takes over Farnsworth's body, astonishing the murderers by emerging from the bathroom, very much alive (while Joe still looks like Joe to himself and the audience, he looks like Farnsworth to everyone else). Still desirous of winning the upcoming championship, Joe begins to whip Farnsworth's body into shape, even hiring Max Corkle to manage him. It takes some doing, but Joe convinces Max that he is indeed Joe and not Farnsworth (their scenes together are priceless, far better seen than described). Meanwhile, Joe has fallen in love with Bette Logan (Evelyn Keyes), a woman whose father had been ruined by the real Farnsworth. For her sake, he pays back millions of dollars that the crooked Farnsworth had finagled out of his investors. This prompts Mrs. Farnsworth and her lover to kill "Farnsworth" again, and once more Joe Pendleton is without a body. How Mr. Jordan arranges for Joe to win the championship, expose the murderers and walk off arm and arm with Bette is a bit too complex to detail here. Here Comes Mr. Jordan is one of the most consistently clever romantic comedies of the 1940s, and richly deserving of the Oscars won by screenwriters Sidney Buchman, Seton I. Miller and Harry Segall. A sequel, Down to Earth, was filmed in 1947, with Roland Culver as Mr. Jordan; and in 1978, the original Jordan was remade by Warren Beatty as Heaven Can Wait.
The best fantasy movie ever made!
I'm a big fan of 'Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, and it was great to see the original film (I've yet to see the Chris Rock version!) It was very interesting how the two are quite similar. The story is great, and it's not surprising that it won the Oscar for it. Some negs though? The second half drags just a tiny bit, and.. I'm not really sold on Robert Montgomery. He was good and all, but Just not great,. But Claude Rains makes up for that in a deliriously great understating Mr. Jordan.
A rich cast & decent script contribute to a film worth seeing.
Any film with EE Horton, James Gleason, or Claude Rains is worth watching once.
Original, cute, slick well acted and fun. Watch and enjoy!
Agreeable fantasy (later remade with Warren Beatty) that sees boxer Robert Montgomery (father of Elizabeth) mistakenly claimed for Heaven by Edward Everett Horton before his time. So, Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains) promises to find him a replacement body and eventually deposits him inside a millionaire who has just been murdered by his wife and secretary. Montgomery resists at first but when he sees the injustices fostered by the millionaire and falls in love with the daughter of one of his victims, he decides to stay in the body (despite wishing to fight for the world championship anyway). Not exactly a laugh riot but genial and with some good performances (particularly by James Gleason as Montgomery's manager in the ring). Rains has not much to do but he is always a pleasure to watch. Montgomery's loutish New York mugging was a bit difficult for me to take but probably engaged the audiences of the time. Also the idea that our fates are predestined didn't quite jell with the notion that Montgomery has some control over the road he is on, but ah well. Above average.
This only natural to want to be able to do something over again, to correct mistakes were tried for a better outcome. It was simple when we were kids in Brooklyn playing stickball. If you missed the swing and the other team was amiable to it call for 'a do over. Your request will be granted one simple reason, reciprocity, refusing your do over would mean there's would be refused been the situation is reversed. There is one point in time that it would be very natural to want the ultimate do over, death. It is understandable that even if you live past hundred years of age is going to be something you would like to do differently, some decision you would like to start a different option was taken. Many movies have been made about a dead person being given some celestial second chance but, although not the first, it certainly ranks among the best, 'Here Comes Mr. Jordan'.
Made in the middle of World War II, 1941, the idea of giving a man who died too early a second chance was an exceptionally appealing and quite comforting concept for the movie going audience back at home. The story and screenplay for this film both one Academy Awards with an additional five nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role. The source material was a relatively minor play written by Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller, who also adapted it to the screen. This is usually an ideal situation in the playwright is also a screenwriter as no one knows better how to alter the most crucial aspects of the story is being in the best position to maintain its emotional integrity. Individually they have extremely impressive resumes that included for Mr. Bachman, 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' and for Mr. Miller the iconic 1939 variation of the classic tale 'The Adventures of Robin Hood'. As for Mr. Hall he has directed an incredibly long list of movies most of which romances which included the best-known that stared Shirley Temple, 'Little Miss Marker'. Those of us who enjoy the movies today going to the movies this is the way to pass the time and obtain a bit of escapism when these movies were made America was in the Great Depression, followed by World War II. In the escapism was far beyond anything we've ever experienced and it was filmmakers like these that maintain the positive morale among the population.
Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery, was an adventurous young man was a professional boxer and amateur pilot which led into the natural nickname of 'The Flying Pug'. While flying his small plane to his next fight in New York City the craft losses control when a cable snaps. Joe dies in the fresh and is approached by heavenly Messenger 7013 (Edward Everett Horton). Although 7013 certain that Joe could not have survived the crash justifying and rescuing assault one ticket back to heaven he discovered that there has been a mistake made Joe was supposed to live in additional years. The first course of action would be to return Jordan's body but unfortunately his manager Max "Pop" Corkle (James Gleason), had the body cremated. With no vessel to be reunited with his soul alternative arrangements had to be made. 7013 referred the matter up to his superior, Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains), who really confirms the situation. The only solution that Mr. Jordan has available is for Jo to have his soul placed in the corpse of a recently deceased man. Understandably Joe was a little upset with this idea Mr. Jordan reassures him that is just like putting on an overcoat, the real Joe will remain intact inside the body. Once you accept the idea Joe has one demand, the body has to be "in the pink" that is physically fit and capable of having him resume his boxing career. [This is an opportunity to return from the dead Joe is a bit particular about his new body. At the several rejections the next candidate is Bruce Farnsworth, exceptionally wealthy investment banker which is drowned in a bathtub after being drugged. Behind the plot was Bruce's his wife Julia (Rita Johnson) and his secretary, Tony Abbott (John Emery). As if first-degree murder wasn't sufficient to portray these characters is faultless and evil they are seen mocking young woman, Julia Logan (Evelyn Keyes), the daughter of a financier who was sold worthless bonds by Farnsworth's bank. At the scene that he has a chance to potentially help her Joe relents and accepts the body.
Joe plans to use his new identity as money to support his training getting them into the best fighting shape ever. Mr. Jordan intercedes telling Joe that although he is destined to become the champion he cannot do it in that way. A better suited body has become available in Joe has just enough time for a brief conversation with Julia. In this short period of time his become very close to her and he tells her that she is approached by somebody, particularly a boxer; she should give him a chance. Mr. Jordan and has a move on to his next body, the prizefighter named Murdoch. In life Joe has known him and had great respect for him as an honest boxer and all-around good person. Realizing that he forgotten his lucky saxophone Joe, now in the body of Murdoch, run back into the pond for a mansion to retrieve it. Everyone inside thinks that font growth had just disappeared in a private investigator is hired. Matter is turned over to the police to be investigated by Inspector Williams (Donald MacBride). Joe/Murdoch tries to explain what happened including details about Mr. Jordan and the body swapping which just convinces the detective that he is crazy.
This is very typical of a movie about time. The plot relies upon request situations that provide a perfect foundation for physical comedy as well as situational humor. It was not unusual for film about time to blend several different genres. We are used to niche programming with today's entertainment paradigm almost unlimited sources of entertainment. When movies had to appeal to the largest possible audience the best way to ensure a decent box office was to provide a little bit or something for everyone. This movie had comedy, drama, mystery and a touch of the supernatural. Mostly the movie had heart. But every newspaper headline was filled with reports war, casualties and destruction. The people in the audience desperately needed something that would lift his spirits and allow them to hold onto a little bit of faith. This movie would undoubtedly be considered 'sappy' by today's standard but on the other side of the coin, 1941 audience would be appalled by what goes for entertainment today. This will has been inducted into the Criterion Collection and given a high definition release. As always the film is impeccably restored with the care and honor it deserves and released with a collection of added material that will greatly enhance your understanding of the movie and appreciation of its lasting cinematic merits.