Title: Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Romance
Director: Alexander Hall
Seton I. Miller
based on the play HEAVEN CAN WAIT by Harry Segall
Music: Friedrich Hollaender
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Edward Everett Horton
This is the bona-fide movie adaption of Harry Segall’s play HEAVEN CAN WAIT, which Warren Beatty would remake in the 70s, whereas Ernst Lubitsch’s 1943 namesake is a different story. Alexander Hall’s HERE COMES MR. JORDAN is a seven-times Oscar nominee including those big ones, BEST PICTURE, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST LEADING ACTOR and BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR and it won 2 for its original story and script (at a time when there were three different categories to honor the writers).
This fantastic fable is about a promising prizefighter Joe Pendleton (Montgomery), whose soul is prematurely taken out of his body by an eager beaver soul-collector (Horton) during a plane crash, then according to the almighty agent of heaven, Mr. Jordan (Rains), Joe still has five-decade of life on earth, but the scrape is that his body has already been cremated, there is no way he can return as Joe. But no need to worry, Mr. Jordan comes to the rescue, he promises to chaperon Joe’s soul to look for a perfect body, aka. a newly dead corpse, to his liking. Finally it is the murdered millionaire banker Bruce Farnsworth catches Joe’s interest, but not in light of his wealth, the high-minded script clarifies that it is solely because of Joe’s Good Samaritan attribute and an overt love-at-first-sight vibe, he tries to help out an elegant damsel-in-distress Miss Logan (Keyes), whose financier father is going to be put in jail thanks to the worthless bonds sold by Bruce’s bank. Only, things will not be that easy because a certain destiny is already written in stone, and another tricky thing is, how can he makes Miss Logan reciprocate her love to him, Joe Pendleton instead of the person she sees aka. Bruce Farnsworth? Yet, don’t worry, Mr. Jordan will safeguard that everything will be fine, plus, Joe always has his lucky saxophone as a mnemonic.
Tackling with surreal idea like afterlife, floating-soul, body-altering, etc., the film deploys a strikingly economic visual tack, not even tries to adorn the narrative with a rudimentary out-of-body and invisible artifice which David Lean puts into practice in BLITHE SPIRIT (1945), this most expedient yet effective sleight-of-hand is to allow audience seeing Joe’s soul all the time, regardless of his physical hosts, which means Montgomery can play along with a supporting cast reacts differently according to his host’s identity, whether he is Bruce Farnsworth or later, the boxer Murdoch. Amplifying by the identity-shifting gimmick, a concise but innovative script, the film makes great play of appeal with a credible cast, headlined by Mr. Montgomery, who is marginally needling being a self-centered whiner in the beginning, but in time, he will imbue a charming patina of earnestness when the plot thickens and effortlessly take our breath away.
Veteran character actor James Gleason scoops a hard-earned Oscar nomination as Joe’s boxing agent, Max Corkle, who is the only one in the know and Gleason is hilarious, particularly in several reaction shots and whenever he attempts to communicate with Mr. Jordan whom he cannot see. Claude Rains is by and large, affable and unfathomable in a larger-than-life design, meanwhile the distaff players have less to impress, Evelyn Keyes and Rita Johnson (as Bruce’s murderous wife) incarnate a Manichaean representation of women, which shamefully belies the movie’s wishful-thinking male spin – a woman finds him desirable because of his soul rather than his outward form, but let’s not forget, what attracts Joe at the first place is Miss Logan’s comely appearance, not her inner quality, that’s a double standard doesn’t consonant with political correctness, otherwise, it is a refreshingly engaging comedy, replete of the gratifying allure of Hollywood’s Golden Age.