Mr. Pendleton Goes to Heaven
I first became aware of "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" back in around 2002, and like others I would imagine that they learnt about it because they saw Chris Rock's remake "Down to Earth". I also became a wear at the same time of Warren Beattie's 70s remake "Heaven Can Wait" which made me inquisitive as a movie which gets two remakes whilst not rare is intriguing. Anyway "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" is a pleasant and amusing movie, typically 40s in humour but not by any means dull with its story of a boxer taken to heaven by an over eager angel only to have to return to earth in a different body. It is pretty much straight forwards with much of what is going to happen telegraphed long before it arrives but with some entertaining performances and a twist in its tale it keeps you entertained for its pleasant 94 minutes.
Boxer Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery) is getting ready for his next fight, but as he flies himself to New York his plane crashes and he finds himself up in heaven pleading that it is a mistake, he can't be dead. And Joe is right as the over eager Messenger 7013 (Edward Everett Horton - Holiday) whisked him away before he dies and now he can't go back to his body as it has been cremated. With a sticky situation on their hands Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains - Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) steps in and takes Joe on a tour of all those people just dead or about to die to find him a replacement body which is how they came to Mr. Farnsworth, recently drowned by his wife and his secretary. Not keen on the idea of inhabiting a body of a millionaire businessman he is persuaded when he witnesses the beautiful Bette Logan (Evelyn Keyes) who needs Mr. Farnsworth's help. But can Joe change everyone's opinions of Mr. Farnsworth who is a cheat and a liar, plus there are those who want him dead and a little matter of Joe wanting to box again to deal with.
I'm sure if I hadn't seen Chris Rock's "Down to Earth" first the actual storyline to "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" would have impressed me more but as it is this tale of a man in need of a body is fun but not fantastic. Part of the trouble is that after the fun opening which culminates with the mess being discovered up in heaven it does become very obvious, still amusing but obvious. We watch as Joe is cunningly persuaded to take on the body of recently murdered Mr. Farnsworth which he does because he sees that it would allow him to meet the striking Bette Logan. And what follows is him trying to get close to Bette, turn his new body into that of a boxer like his was and deal with his wife and secretary who had tried to kill him.
Now the thing about this fun little storyline is that so much of it is telegraphed, when Joe takes on Farnsworth's body you know that with him talking to the invisible Mr. Jordan people will think he has gone loopy. You also know that despite having a thing for Bette the fact he is still married is going to cause issues as well as the fact that his wife and secretary would still like him dead. It's still all good fun, the humour of Mrs. Farnsworth fainting when he comes back from the dead brings a smile to your face as does the scene where Joe as Mr. Farnsworth tries to explain to his former boxing trainer what has happened.
The one really good thing is that things do and don't go quite how you expect them to when it comes to the ending. I'm going to be vague but after a movie which telegraphs so much it doesn't give you the simplest happy ever after ending or most certainly not one that you may have predicted.
But the thing which makes "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" so much fun is the actual performances mainly from Robert Montgomery as Joe and Claude Rains as Mr. Jordan. Montgomery does the comical anger part of Joe so brilliantly especially in the scenes immediately after he is whipped up to heaven too soon and his delivery of lines is full of great comic timing. But in many ways it is Claude Rains who makes it unforgettable because as some form of angel he has this devilish side. Watching Mr. Jordan cunningly persuade Joe to take on Mr. Farnsworth body is simply great because of the sense of knowing which Rains gives Mr. Jordan, calmly standing there, with that sly smile knowing that when Joe sees Bette he won't be able to refuse. That is not to say the other performances are bad and Edward Everett Horton as the over eager angel Messenger 7013 is fun as is James Gleason as boxing trainer Max Corkle.
What this all boils down to is that "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" is a fun 1940s movie which works mainly down to the good performances from Robert Montgomery and Claude Rains more than anything. But sadly it is a movie spoilt by its remakes because if you watch it already having seen one of the newer versions a big part of the fun and surprise is missing.