Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Devil and Mr. Van Cleve

A Movie Review

Heaven Can Wait
(1943) was not what I expected it to be, it is not the inspiration for the 1978 film staring Warren Beatty (that movie is a remake of the 1941 feature Here Comes Mr. Jordan), but rather a sentimental Ernst Lubitsch picture with some slight supernatural framing. Having died comfortably at 9:36 PM following a large and enjoyable dinner, Mr. Henry Van Cleve (national treasure Don Ameche) presents himself at Satans offices in Hell confident that is where he belongs. The courteous and surprisingly reasonable dark prince finding no obvious reason to let him in agrees to hear the story of the old mans life. Covering the period from his birth in the 1870's to his death in 1942, Mr. Van Cleve tells the story of his mortality with emphasis on his relationships with women. The most significant women in his life was his late wife Martha Strabel Van Cleve (dead celebraty of the month Gene Tierney in her first mother role), whom he stole away from his boorish cousin Albert (Allyn Joslyn).

This is a movie about a man who thinks he's a worse person then he acutely is, granted he had a taste for the ladies and made his share of mistakes in life, but he was no monster, and on the all a likeable chap who loved his family. The story as I said is quite sentimental and very old timey, it plucks along at a leisurely pace, has likeable characters, and is generally a relaxing cinematic experience. Special note has to go to the always good Charles Coburn who is wonderful as Grandpa Hugo Van Cleve, as well as the uncredited Clarence Muse who as black butler Jasper is better then Benson. This movie also has excellent use of color, an aspect of film aesthetics' that we pay little attention to now days. A fine if not overwhelming good film.


At 8:54 AM, Blogger Nate Dredge said...

The films screenplay is by Samsom Raphaelson who is best known for writing 'The Jazz Singer'(1927).


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