Saturday Movie Review – “Heaven Can Wait”

We’ve got another movie released through the Criterion Collection as this week’s Saturday Movie Review. Keep in mind when reading that this is the worst movie I’ve seen released under the Criterion label; this is why I point them out in the DVD columns every time they release a movie.

Cast and Crew

Don Ameche as Henry Van Cleve
Gene Tierney as Martha Strabel Van Cleve
Charles Coburn as Hugo Van Cleve

Screenplay by Samson Raphaelson, based on the Leslie Bush-Fekete play.
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

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Past movie reviews can be found here.


Henry Van Cleve passes away, and promptly goes to Hell. When he arrives and meets His Excellency, he promptly tries to argue that this is where he truly belongs. His life is then recounted from birth to death.

High Point

Convincing His Excellency to hear the case.

Low Point

I found the somewhat pro-adultery attitude of the film is irritating to me, as I’m firmly against it.

The Review

This is certainly an original film. He is, after all, trying to argue his way out of Heaven and into Hell. When does that happen? If it weren’t an adaptation, it would get a perfect score, but instead it receives 5 out of 6.

The effects were all makeup effects, but they did a good job. Adding 25 years to Don Ameche with makeup made him look a whole lot like the way he really did look 25 years later! I give it 6 out of 6.

The story is your basic love story with an amusing framing piece. Instead of showing the boy trying to win the girl the whole time, we see him win her, mess up, and try to win her back repeatedly. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting from the children varied wildly. (Marlene Mains was fantastic as Mary at age nine, while Nino Pipitone, Jr. did an awful job as young Jack.) The adults all did a great job. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is great. This is a comedy, and it’s a very funny one at that. I felt some distaste when the film’s conclusion didn’t quite line up with my own morals, but the 110 minutes before that in this 112 minute film were all great. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production included some very challenging camera work, particularly during the last dance. This is the most active camera I’ve seen in a film of this era. (It was released in 1943.) I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s an amusing film, that was well deserving of its nomination for Best Picture. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Heaven Can Wait receives 35 out of 42.