Heaven Can Wait (1943)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

USA, 1943.  Screenplay by , based on the play Birthday by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by , .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Not since Milton penned Paradise Lost have we had so attractive and sympathetic a portrayal of Satan, but here he is in all his glory: a strikingly-featured man in a great suit, surrounded by rich red columns and bookcases as tall as the eye can see. The man may run the underworld, but he does it with class. In walks crusty Don Ameche, recently departed from earth, informing the man downstairs that he deserves to reside in his low domain and not in the happy place above. His explanation: he was a womanizer his whole life and never fully deserved the beautiful, kind woman (Gene Tierney) he was married to. The film then flashes back to his rambunctious youth through to his equally incorrigible old age, with director Ernst Lubitsch (and his famous “touch” in full evidence) making ample use of the rich colour cinematography, lush sets and his uncannily deft combination of wit and moving sentimentality to tell a most glorious love story. Ameche and Tierney, in a rather wispy but still lovely performance, meet, elope, split up and elope again, in between experiencing all the good and bad that life has to offer a couple who dare to stick it out. It’s a soufflé of a movie, similar to a contemporary film like The Life and Death Of Colonel Blimp but without the deeper themes; somehow, though, with the director’s masterful command of the camera, it sticks.

The Criterion Collection:  #291

Academy Award Nominations:  Best Picture; Best Director (Ernst Lubitsch); Best Cinematography-Colour

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