Tuesday, August 7, 2012
HERE COMES MR. JORDAN
(July 1941, U.S.)
And once again, we have another one of those great movie blog coincidences...from one story about death and the afterlife right into another! Ain't life funny sometimes?
If you grew up on films of the 1970s, then you very likely saw (and possibly loved!) Warren Beatty's HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978). What I'm betting you didn't know at the time was that the film was a remake of HERE COMES MR. JORDAN, a better and funnier film, in my opinion. It was remade a second time as DOWN TO EARTH (2001) with Chris Rock in the title role, but that's about all I'm willing to mention regarding THAT one!
This is a wonderful fantasy/comedy film in which boxer and amateur pilot Joe Pendleton (played by Robert Montgomery) crashes his plane (in just the first five minutes of the film!), is mistakenly taken to Heaven before his time and then given a second chance back on Earth in the body of another man, crooked and wealthy banker-investor Bruce Farnsworth, just as he's (Fransworth) about to be murdered by his wife and her accomplice. This, by the way, is all courtesy of Heaven's "office manager in charge", Mr. Jordan (played with great joy by Claude Rains). As Farnsworth, Joe Pendleton decides to reform his new host's past sins by repaying all the investors of his crooked deals, including the father of his love interest, Bette Logan (played by Evelyn Keyes). He also sends for his former boxing trainer Max Corkle (played hilariously by James Gleason) and convinces him that he actually IS Joe Pendleton (by playing his saxophone just as badly as he did in his previous incarnation).
Are you following all of this so far??
So with Farnsworth's money to smooth the way, Max trains him and arranges a title bout with the current heavyweight champion, but Mr. Jordan returns to warn Joe that, while he is destined to be the new champion, it can't happen the way that was originally planned. Joe has just enough time to warn Bette, with whom he's fallen in love, to look for him in another body, most likely a boxer, before he is shot by his secretary in a second murder attempt. The body is concealed and Joe returns to a ghostly existence. Joe's now a boxer again under the name of Murdoch. Murdoch wins the big fight, becomes champ, meets the girl of his dreams (again) and all will be just happily ever after, because when you're dealing with a story about love and spirituality, everything HAS to end that way!
Most fans of this tale would likely consider HEAVEN CAN WAIT the better film. I'm not saying it's not a good film, it just clearly wasn't good enough for me to purchase the DVD as part of my film collection. HERE COMES MR. JORDAN, in my opinion, contains much more of the screwball dialogue and situations that make it a much funnier and more enjoyable film to watch. And bottom line, if you're labeling a film as a comedy, then funnier always wins over sexy star power like Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.
Favorite line or dialogue:
(Title on card): It begins in Pleasant Valley...where all is peach...and harmony...and love...and where two men are beating each other's brains out.