For most movie sequels or re-makes, the history of this type of film has not been a good one. Most either make weak showings or fail altogether. There are a few stand-outs, of course, like The Godfather, Part 2. Today, many movies are continuations of earlier ones, documenting a history of the characters or plots, like The Avengers. The Taking of Pelham, One, Two, Three was made twice and both versions are excellent pictures. Some movies come back as nearly new, including a different title from the original, but keeping the plot and characters essentially the same. 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan featured Robert Montgomery, Evelyn Keyes, Claude Rains, Rita Johnson and Edward Everett Horton. A boxer and amateur pilot, Joe Pendleton, dies in a plane crash and is taken to heaven too early; then he's given a second chance and returned to earth. In 1978, Warren Beatty directed (with Buck Henry) and starred in Heaven Can Wait. He was re-united with Julie Christie and Jack Warden. He'd worked them on two previous films, McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) and Shampoo (1975) (please see my column He's More Than Just a Hairdresser, June, 2015). There was an all-star cast for this movie, featuring greats like James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, Vincent Gardenia and R G Armstrong.
Joe Pendleton is a quarterback for the L.A. Rams. As he's pedaling his bike through a tunnel, a guardian angel named The Escort, sees that Joe is about to be hit by a truck and pulls him out of his body and sends him to heaven. When he gets to heaven Mr. Jordan tells Joe that a terrible mistake has been made and he's arrived much too early. On earth, his body has been cremated and a new one must be found. Leo Farnsworth, a wealthy industrialist, has just been drugged and drowned in his bathtub by his cheating wife, Julia (Cannon), and her lover Tony Abbott (Grodin). Joe takes his body.
Suddenly, Leo Farnsworth is alive, well and suspicious of the pair. He suddenly decides to buy the Los Angeles Rams and, even more amazing, he wants to become the star quarterback and take his team to the Super Bowl. Everyone thinks Leo has lost his mind, especially when he confides in Max Corkle (Warner), his former friend and trainer, as to Leo's real identity. He wants Max to train him again and get him into shape for playing. At some point we see Corkle become convinced of Joe's new existence and he starts talking to an invisible Mr. Jordan. Jordan had explained everything to Max. Warden's performance in this scene is memorable.
In addition to all of this confusion, Leo meets and falls in love with Betty Logan, an activist who's against Farnsworth's environmental policies.
The Rams have made it to the Super Bowl but Mr. Jordan informs Joe that he must give up Farnsworth's body. Julia and Abbott are about to kill Leo again. Joe tells Julia that she might meet someone in the future and that man will remind her of Leo. She's confused and upset. Tom Jarrett, a back-up quarterback, takes over in the big game.
Meanwhile, a police detective, Lt. Krim (Gardenia), tricks Julia and Abbott into confessing their guilt about how Leo died. On the field, Tom Jarrett takes a serious hit and dies, but Mr. Jordan puts Joe into that body, he revives Tom and the Rams win the title. During the celebration after the victory, Mr. Jordan removes Joe's memories of everything and he becomes Tom Jarrett. He bumps into Betty near the locker rooms and she has a peculiar "moment" in which she thinks they've met before. They leave the stadium together, getting into a conversation.
This is a great movie and stands alone, even though it's based on a previous film. The cast is just right and the chemistry between actors – especially those who'd teamed up before – is obvious and enjoyable. Fantasy films like this have to be handled just right because, of course, we all know it's just that, a fantasy. In any case, it's a fun film with interesting twists and turns. You won't be disappointed when you watch again.
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My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 29 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).|
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