|Here Comes Mr. Jordan|
|Directed by||Alexander Hall|
|Produced by||Everett Riskin|
|Based on||Heaven Can Wait|
by Harry Segall
|Music by||Friedrich Hollaender|
|Edited by||Viola Lawrence|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Here Comes Mr. Jordan is a 1941 American fantasy romantic comedy film directed by Alexander Hall, 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 two lead actors reprised their roles in the film's sequel Down to Earth (1947), and Warren Beatty later remade the film as Heaven Can Wait (1978). The premise of guardian angels was the focus of other Hollywood features, including I Married an Angel (1942); A Guy Named Joe (1943); Angel on My Shoulder (1946), in which Rains plays the Devil; It's a Wonderful Life (1946); A Matter of Life and Death (US: Stairway to Heaven, 1946);The Bishop's Wife (1947) and Angels in the Outfield (1951), but it all began with Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan was originally going to be released on VHS and Betamax in November 1979 as one of Columbia Pictures Home Entertainment's launch titles, but because of the financial success of Midnight Express, the release was cancelled and Midnight Express took Here Comes Mr. Jordan's place in the launch lineup. Due to this, Columbia did not release the film on home video until 1985.
On May 11, 1941, boxer and amateur pilot Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery), affectionately known as "the Flying Pug", flies his small aircraft to his next fight in New York City, but crashes when a control cable severs. His soul is "rescued" by 7013 (Edward Everett Horton), an officious angel who assumed that Joe could not have survived. Joe's manager, Max "Pop" Corkle (James Gleason), has his body cremated. In the afterlife, the records show his death was a mistake; he was supposed to live for 50 more years. The angel's superior, Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains), confirms this, but since there is no more body, Joe will have to take over a newly dead corpse. Mr. Jordan explains that a body is just something that is worn, like an overcoat; inside, Joe will still be himself. Joe insists that it be someone in good physical shape, because he wants to continue his boxing career.
After Joe turns down several "candidates", Mr. Jordan takes him to see the body of a crooked, extremely wealthy banker and investor named Bruce Farnsworth, who has just been drugged and drowned in a bathtub by his wife Julia (Rita Johnson) and his secretary, Tony Abbott (John Emery). Joe is reluctant to take over a life so unlike his previous one, but when he sees the murderous pair mockingly berating Miss Logan (Evelyn Keyes), whose father's name has been misused by Farnsworth to sell worthless securities, he changes his mind and agrees to take over Farnsworth's body.[Note 1]
As Farnsworth, Joe repays all the investors and has Miss Logan's father exonerated. He sends for Corkle and convinces him that he is Joe (by playing his saxophone just as badly as he did in his previous incarnation). With Farnsworth's money to smooth the way, Corkle trains him and arranges a bout to decide who will next fight the current heavyweight champion, but Mr. Jordan returns to warn Joe that, while he is destined to be the champion, it cannot happen that way. Joe has just enough time to tell Miss Logan, with whom he has fallen in love, that if a stranger (especially if he is a boxer) approaches her, to give him a chance. Then he is shot by his secretary. While Joe returns to a ghostly existence, Farnsworth's body is hidden, with everyone believing Farnsworth has simply disappeared. Corkle hires a private investigator to find him.
Accompanied by Mr. Jordan, Joe goes to retrieve his lucky saxophone he left on Farnsworth's piano and finds the police conducting a group interrogation. Corkle, talking to himself, wanders the room looking for Joe or Mr. Jordan. Corkle has explained about Joe, Mr. Jordan and the body-switching, to the police detective (Donald MacBride) who thinks he is a nut. Joe manages to mentally nudge Corkle into turning on the radio to hear the championship fight and hears that Murdock has collapsed from a slight grazing punch. Mr. Jordan reveals that the boxer was shot by gamblers because he refused to throw the fight. Joe takes over Murdock's body and wins the title. Back at the mansion, Corkle hears one of the radio announcers mention a saxophone hanging by the ringside and seeing the saxophone gone from the room, realizes Joe has assumed Murdock's body.
Corkle races down to the dressing room. There, Joe passes along information from Mr. Jordan that Farnsworth's body is in a refrigerator in the basement of the mansion. Corkle tells the detective, who promptly has Mrs. Farnsworth and the secretary arrested. As Murdock, Joe fires his old, crooked manager and hires Corkle. Mr. Jordan reveals to Joe that this is his destiny; he can be Murdock and live his life.
Healing the gunshot wound and at the same time removing Joe's memory of his past life, Mr. Jordan hangs around for a bit longer until Miss Logan arrives. She wanted to see Corkle, but runs into Murdock instead. The pair feel they have met before. The two go off together, while Mr. Jordan smiles and says "So long, champ."
Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn was persuaded to try a somewhat "risky" project in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, despite his well-founded policy of building on past successful ventures, rather than financing more adventurous films. The original 1938 stage play, Heaven Can Wait by Harry Segall, was adapted to form the basis of the film. Broadway producer Jed Harris had planned to produce the play on the New York stage, until Columbia purchased the rights as a vehicle for Cary Grant. While it was still in pre-production, Montgomery was borrowed from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to star in the film.[Note 3]
Upon Here Comes Mr. Jordan's world premiere at Radio City Music Hall, film critic Theodore Strauss of The New York Times noted, "... Columbia has assembled its brightest people for a delightful and totally disarming joke at heaven's expense." He further described the film as, "... gay, witty, tender and not a little wise. It is also one of the choicest comic fantasies of the year."
Variety called Montgomery's acting "a highlight in a group of excellent performances" and praised Hall's direction for "expert handling of characters and wringing utmost interest out of every scene."
Harrison's Reports wrote, "Here is a picture that is praiseworthy from many angles; for one thing, the theme is novel and the plot developments ingenious; for another, the production values are good, and the acting and direction are of a high standard."
The review in Film Daily opined, "Producer Everett Riskin, noted for his successes in the field of comedy, had no cinch with this property which might easily have backfired with an inexperienced hand at the helm. But Riskin's talent and knowledge has placed this finished product very near the peak of perfection in film making."Here Comes Mr. Jordan placed fifth on the year-end poll of 548 critics nationwide at Film Daily, naming it one of the best films of 1941.
Russell Maloney of The New Yorker called the film "one of the brightest comedies of the year ... Mr. Rains' acting is the kind that makes the word 'ham' a word of endearment, and I mean that for a compliment."
Film critic Leonard Maltin noted that Here Comes Mr. Jordan was an "Excellent fantasy-comedy of prizefighter Montgomery accidentally sent to heaven before his time, forced to occupy a new body on earth. Hollywood moviemaking at its best, with first-rate cast and performances."
Harry Segall won the Academy Award for Best Story, while Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller won for Best Screenplay. Nominations included: Best Picture, Montgomery for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Hall for Best Director, Gleason for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Joseph Walker for 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.Here Comes Mr. Jordan was remade as Heaven Can Wait (1978), starring Warren Beatty, Buck Henry and Julie Christie. Ice Angel, a 2000 film for Fox Family starring Nicolle Tom and Tara Lipinski remade it with the "twist" that it was an adult male hockey player who was forced to take over the body of a teenaged female figure skater. Down to Earth (2001), sharing the title with the sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan, starred Chris Rock.Jhuk Gaya Aasman (English: The Skies Have Bowed) (1968) was an Indian Hindi remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan.Punjabi movie Mar Gaye Oye Loko is also inspired from Here Comes Mr. Jordan. A pornographic remake, Debbie Does Dallas ... Again (which reimagines the person taken too soon as the lead character from Debbie Does Dallas), was released in 2007.