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Ein himmlischer Sünder (1943) Online

Ein himmlischer Sünder (1943) Online
Original Title :
Heaven Can Wait
Genre :
Movie / Comedy / Drama / Fantasy / Romance
Year :
Directror :
Ernst Lubitsch
Cast :
Gene Tierney,Don Ameche,Charles Coburn
Writer :
Samson Raphaelson,Leslie Bush-Fekete
Type :
Time :
1h 52min
Rating :
Ein himmlischer Sünder (1943) Online

Henry Van Cleve presents himself at the gates of Hell only to find he is closely vetted on his qualifications for entry. Surprised there is any question on his suitability, he recounts his lively life and the women he has known from his mother onwards, but mainly concentrating on his happy but sometimes difficult twenty-five years of marriage to Martha.
Complete credited cast:
Gene Tierney Gene Tierney - Martha Strabel Van Cleve
Don Ameche Don Ameche - Henry Van Cleve
Charles Coburn Charles Coburn - Hugo Van Cleve
Marjorie Main Marjorie Main - Mrs. Strabel
Laird Cregar Laird Cregar - His Excellency
Spring Byington Spring Byington - Bertha Van Cleve
Allyn Joslyn Allyn Joslyn - Albert Van Cleve
Eugene Pallette Eugene Pallette - E.F. Strabel
Signe Hasso Signe Hasso - Mademoiselle
Louis Calhern Louis Calhern - Randolph Van Cleve
Helene Reynolds Helene Reynolds - Peggy Nash
Aubrey Mather Aubrey Mather - James
Tod Andrews Tod Andrews - Jack Van Cleve (as Michael Ames)

In a 1983 interview, "A Conversation with Don Ameche", Don Ameche said this movie was his favorite of all the films he worked on.

The lead was written with Fredric March or Rex Harrison in mind. Ernst Lubitsch was most disappointed when 20th Century Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck insisted on casting Don Ameche for commercial reasons. Lubitsch later recanted his opposition to Ameche, won over by the actor's dedication and professionalism.

Gene Tierney recalled that during production, "Lubitsch was a tyrant on the set, the most demanding of directors. After one scene, which took from noon until five to get, I was almost in tears from listening to Lubitsch shout at me. The next day I sought him out, looked him in the eye, and said, 'Mr. Lubitsch, I'm willing to do my best but I just can't go on working on this picture if you're going to keep shouting at me.' 'I'm paid to shout at you', he bellowed. 'Yes', I said, 'and I'm paid to take it - but not enough.' After a tense pause, Lubitsch broke out laughing. From then on we got along famously." (From Gene Tierney's autobiography 'Self-Portrait'.)

Although Gene Tierney had difficulties with Lubitsch at the beginning of the shooting of this film, they later got along famously and Tierney went on to call Lubitsch "A Brilliant Director" in her 1985 interview in Houston.

Gene Tierney discovered she was pregnant during the filming of this movie.

This was Ernst Lubitsch's only completed film in Technicolor.

Ernst Lubitsch migrated to 20th Century Fox partly out of frustration at being unable to get his pet projects "A Self-Made Cinderella" and "Margin for Error' made at his home for 20 years, Paramount. He and writing partner Samson Raphaelson hit upon the idea of adapting Leslie Bush-Fekete's 1934 play "Birthdays" for the screen. It was a subject close to Lubitsch's heart as he was undergoing a divorce at the time.

This was the first of two unrelated films of the same title to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The second was Der Himmel kann warten (1978).

In an early example of product placement, the principals meet in Brentano's, a famous New York bookstore chain.

Ernst Lubitsch's habit of reining in Gene Tierney's occasional tendency towards emotional excess initially caused friction between the two, though they later resolved their issues.

Although Tod Andrews played Don Ameche and Gene Tierney's son in the film, he was only six years younger than Ameche and six years older than Tierney.

In his conversations with Billy Wilder, Cameron Crowe asked Wilder about Ernst Lubitsch's touch. Wilder replied like this - "It was the elegant use of the Superjoke. You had a joke, and you felt satisfied, and then there was one more big joke on top of it. The joke you didn't expect." In this film, the audience sees Charles Coburn (Grandfather) giving a big pat on young Albert's back. After that, Young Albert goes to downstairs and starts wearing his hand gloves. Grandfather (who is upstairs) takes the glass of water and pours the water on Young Albert's head.

Henry Van Cleve and Martha Strable were married on October 26, 1898, Henry's 26th birthday.

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on October 11, 1943 with Don Ameche reprising his film role.

The film takes place on October 25, 1872, in 1881, in 1887, from October 25 to October 26, 1898, in October 1908, in October 1923, in October 1932 and on October 26, 1942.

Randolph and Bertha Van Cleve were married in 1871.

Jack Van Cleve was born in 1899.

Randolph Van Cleve was born in 1844.

This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #291.

As Henry Van Cleve passes away, he hears the "Merry Widow Waltz" by Franz Lehar. Director Ernst Lubitsch also directed the 1934 film version of Die lustige Witwe (1934), with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald.

Martha Van Cleve died in 1924.

User reviews



"Heaven Can Wait" lies among Ernst Lubitsch's best movies, and that's largely enough to ensure that it is a masterpiece.

It is the exquisite story of the women-devoted life of a never-repenting Casanova, from childhood through old age, death, and even after-death. We find Lubitsch's trade-mark elegant sense of humor, perfect timing, sharp intelligence. There is also a rather deep, though cheerful, representation of common, typical sides (faults, to say better) of a male character: shallow sentiments, selfish approach to a woman's true love, childish refuse to accept years passing.

The stars Don Ameche, Gene Tierney, Charles Coburn make a superb work. However, a main credit of the film is the cast of incredibly nice actors (willingly?) gathered by the director. The Devil himself (Laird Cregar) is likeable, with his perfect manners and friendly approach! We are unable to dislike even those shrewish old rich women, who pop out along the movie. It's impossible to give the deserved credit to all those wonderfully talented supporting actors. Let me mention the delightful butler Jasper (Clarence Muse), with his role of ambassador between Mr. and Mrs. Strabel.

To be personal, I'm very fond of "Heaven Can Wait", since it was my first encounter with Gene Tierney. When she appeared on the screen I couldn't believe my eyes: "Who, who, who is this girl? I'm dreaming or what? Does this girl actually exist?" Honestly, I felt dizzy for the remainder of the movie.

Only after repeated views of "Heaven Can Wait" I was able to distract my eyes from Gene, and fully appreciate the great merits of this magnificent, highly-recommended Lubitsch's masterpiece.


Ernst Lubitsch was a man destined to take the play in which this film is based to the screen. The results are amazing. This 1943 movie continues to charm audiences after all these years. Credit must go to the great Lubitsch who shows his light touch on this delightful comedy.

Since the film is based on the play "Birthday", by Leslie Bush-Fedeke, the main idea behind the action is to present us Henry Van Cleve as he ages. The film opens as Henry is descending a long flight of stairs. He is an old man now. Henry meets an elegant man at the desk who will decide whether he will go down to hell, or to heaven. The story then goes back in flashbacks to show us what this Henry was really like while he lived.

Henry Van Cleve is part of a wealthy family from New York. When the film opens Henry is celebrating his 10th birthday. This involves being introduced to a French governess who will transform the boy for life. Then we see Henry as he is going to celebrate his 25th birthday. This is a most important date for him because he meets and falls in love with the lovely Martha Strabel, a beauty from Kansas, that is his idiotic cousin's fiancée. Needless to say, the handsome Henry falls in love with her and they elope.

Life has a way to get in the way of Henry as we see how he is handed tragedy when he loses his lovely Martha when she becomes sick. Ultimately, Henry himself, a mere mortal, dies after a long life that has been spent alone, living dedicated to his own son.

"Heaven can Wait" is a lovely film. Much credit has to go to its stars, Don Ameche and Gene Tierney, who make an excellent couple. They were at the top of their careers and guided by Mr. Lubitsch, their romance, while sweet, it's not sugary. Ms. Tierney's beauty adorns this film and Mr. Ameche is seen at his suavest self.

The supporting cast was a director's dream come true: Charles Coburn, Marjorie Main, Eugene Palette, Spring Byington, Louis Calhern, Laird Cregar, among others, give the film the elegance that Mr. Lubitsch used so well to enhance the movie.

A classic that will live forever!


Utterly perfect Fox picture with handsome Don Ameche and stunningly beautiful Gene Tierney. It also stars the wonderfully hilarious Charles Coburn as Ameche's grandfather.

A well written, well acted and well directed film that is unjustly underrated and should be rediscovered. The entire film is shot in gorgeous full Technicolor and handled by director Ernst Lubitsch capable hands.

It details the story of a man, played by Ameche, who thinks that he deserves to go to hell after he dies. He then proceeds to recount his life story to the devil (Laird Creger). A true delight that is not to be missed.


Do NOT confuse this comedic gem with Warren Beatty's 1977 film of the same name -- that was actually a remake of a different 40's classic, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan." But, this is much better, and even more imaginative. Ameche is brilliant, versatile, and amazingly handsome as the protagonist. Laird Creagar is excellent as Lord Satan, and Allyn Joslyn and Eugene Palette head a great supporting cast. One of the wittiest comedies ever made. Don't miss it.


Another Lubitsch masterpiece, Heaven Can Wait is in brilliant color. It is extremely well acted, charming, and in its own way, timeless. It takes place mainly around the turn of the century though it does transcend decades. It is the engaging story of wealthy would-be playboy Henry Van Cleeve, magnificently played by Don Ameche, whose heart is captured by Gene Tierney. Since he always had a bit of the rogue in him, and acted mischievously at times, upon death Henry goes directly to see Satan (played winningly by Laird Cregar) to accept his fate of eternal damnation. Thus, the story of his life is told to Satan via flashback in most ingenious fashion. I don't wish to give any more away. It is marvelous fare for the entire family. See it and revel in it.


Ernst Lubitsch, the great European director who immigrated to America and changed movies for the better shows his true light touch in this very original yet very charming story about one man's life and the changes and problems he faces. Don Ameche is perfect as the lead character, Henry Van Cleeves, a man spoiled rotten as a child but grows up and learns many things, mostly from his beautiful wife Martha, played by Gene Tiereny. However, the best role goes to Charles Coburn who plays the rough, frank, outspoken yet lovable grandfather who sympathizes with Henry and strives to make his life better.

The kind of material here could have been used to make an epic story on the level of films like Gone With the Wind or Giant. Nevertheless, we see Henry's life in full motion, always moving ahead even when he is helpless to stop it. And Lubitsch's touch has never been more prominent, taking some scenes any other director would have made disturbing or unsettling and giving them a witty and comical feeling. It's a shame Lubitsch died so early or else we could have gotten more of these classic and moving stories.
Sadaron above the Gods

Sadaron above the Gods

This movie shows how wonderful films were back in the 1940's. Heaven Can Wait is a delightful and very funny romantic comedy about a man who retells his life to see if he belongs in heaven or hell.

Don Ameche, as Henry, shows again that he may have been the most underrated actor of his time. Charles Coburn, as Grandfather, is hilarious. Gene Tierney as always is beautiful as always, in my opinion the most beautiful woman in film.

Romantic comedies today are not made like this . You actually get a feeling that this relationship is real and can actually happen. Todays romantic comedies seem so contrived. If u want to spend two hours and laugh, cry and just have a great time, watch Heaven Can Wait.


Possibly my first true screwball comedy, definitely my first Ernst Lubitsch film, Heaven Can Wait lived up to the reputation of being a well made, laughter filled time. Sure it is a bit dated at times, but overall I believe the message and events occurring transcend age, probably due in small part to the fact that the film spans eighty or so years. Henry Van Cleve has passed away and knowing that he would probably have too much trouble getting into heaven, he decides to go to the place many have told him to go during life…hell.

I really enjoyed the rapport between Don Ameche (Van Cleve) and Laird Cregar (His Excellency/Satan). Cregar has a lot of charisma and is a nice change of pace from most guardians of the underworld. He has a strict code of rules, not just anyone can receive eternal damnation; one has to have earned it in spades. The fact that Ameche is trying to get in quickly, so as not to have to worry, is great, especially since he has to prove why. Of course as many stories of this ilk show, it's the women of his life that he must speak of to explain why he has sinned. It's a shame that there weren't any intercuts showing the two of them in Hell sitting and discussing Henry's life. The bookends to the film are nice, but it almost seems a shame to have seen Cregar so little.

Based on a play, Heaven Can Wait stands up well as a film. It is very much a dialogue driven movie, yet there are some great visual moments included as well. The script is great, sprinkled with dry sarcasm along with some laugh-out-loud moments and some surreal absurdities. Don Ameche is very effective as the Casanova who can't help himself even when he has the woman of his dreams. That woman, played by Gene Tierney, shows great comic timing to play off of the manipulative Ameche. She is a beautiful actress and can act very well. Tierney needs to play every emotion possible to show the ebbs and flows of their relationship while still retaining the love she has for her husband through all the tough times. Sure the whirlwind chance meeting which leads to their eloping is hilarious, and the rescue from Kansas plays out with almost a slapstick feel—especially between Tierney's character's parents and their funny papers—however, the real shining moment is their final dance together. Their love is displayed for all to see as they twirl in solitude while the rest of the party is seen through the opening between rooms. The moment is both beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.

I must say I was a big fan of the film and will seek out more Lubitsch in the future. Trouble in Paradise, available on Criterion DVD along with this film, and probably his most recognized work, Ninotchka with Greta Garbo, tops the list to check out. A great script, talented ensemble cast (look for comic genius from Charles Coburn and his baseball bat in heaven) as discussed, and superb make-up work (Don Ameche as eighty actually looks like he did at eighty, see Cocoon and a more cynical take on his character here in Trading Places) are molded deftly together to create a nostalgic look on life and those that one touches during his time on earth.


This lovely film is an example of the movie style called "the Lubitsch touch". Ernst Lubitsch made a long series of delightfully light and funny but human comedies from the silent period into the 1940s. His films usually deal with sexual matters, but touch upon the follies and foibles of the human race in other respects (including culture, business, politics). In this film there is a classic comic section dealing with Marjorie Main and Eugene Palette, the parents of Gene Tierney (the film's heroine). Palette has made a huge fortune in the meat packing business (his symbol is a cow named "Mabel" who is the subject of an asinine jingle that leaves Charles Coburn almost in a state of shock). Main and Palette are pretty rough characters, and have disowned Tierney for abandoning her original fiancé (ALLEN JOSLYN) to run off with the far more human and likable Don Ameche. But they are not exactly the type of parents one would like to return home to visit. Indeed, most of the time they are battling each other. In CITIZEN KANE, Ruth Warwick and Orson Welles took two minutes of interconnected scenes to show how a good marriage soured. Those scenes were around the breakfast table, over a period of years. But here there is only one scene - Palette wanted to read the comic section first in the newspaper while having breakfast. But Main insists that she read it first because she got the paper first. When Palette starts protesting, Main (in retaliation) starts reading the Katzenjammer Kids (Palette's favorite comic strip) to explain how the Captain got out of a barrel with the aid of a snake. Main tells enough to get Palette to protest out loud that she's spoiling it by telling him the solution. There is a break in the action because Tierney returns to her home with Joslyn. Shortly afterward we see Palette reading the newspaper in the parlor. He looks up and says, "Why that snake did get him out of the barrel." Seldom have comic strips been used to illustrate a miserable marriage.

The film is not a guffaw fest, but has extremely funny moments, many centered on comments by Ameche's wise old grandfather (Coburn). Tierney makes a fine marriage partner and lover for Ameche, who is a turn of the century ladies' man, but not as awful a person as he thinks he is, or as many of his contemporaries have made him feel he is. Laird Cregar plays the Devil as a gentleman of discernment and understanding (as Lubitsch could imagine him). He has one marvelous moment when he sees something that momentarily diverts him from listening to Ameche, but which he reacts to with ruthlessness but understandably good taste. All I say is that it is unfortunate for the lady involved.

Not as politically satiric as NINOTCHKA but more in the nature of the simple sweetness of THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, HEAVEN CAN WAIT is a sweet valentine to an elegant, lost New York City of 1890 - 1932. I recommend it to people who miss that elegance


I may be generation X but I know a good movie when I see it. I happened across this one late at night and have watched it every time it has come on since. It is a light hearted tale of a decessed man that goes straight to hell and has to convince the devil, or his excellancy as he is called in the movie, why he deserves to be there, and not in heaven. If given the chance I HIGHLY RECOMEND that everyone sees this film.
Tyler Is Not Here

Tyler Is Not Here

This is the last of a series of hit comedies Ernst Lubitsch made in the years just before and during World War II. Ninotchka (1939), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), That Uncertain Feeling (1941), To Be or Not To Be (1942), and this one, Heaven Can Wait (1943), make up the core of a very successful body of work for one of Hollywood's finest directors.

If there is one phrase to characterize the "Lubitsch touch," then I would say "light romantic comedies," the kind made popular by Hollywood in the late years of the Depression. His films didn't have the subtle commentary on American life that Capra's did, but were more along the lines of old fashioned entertainment.

Heaven Can Wait is based on a play written by a Hungarian (all of Lubitsch's films during this period were written by European emigrés like himself, and as such have a more cosmopolitan flair than most American films). It follows the life of a Victorian playboy, Henry Van Cleve, of Fifth Avenue, New York, and is told in retrospective by the hero as he explains his life to His Excellency, the Devil.

Don Ameche is the main character and delivers a fine performance as the boyish rogue who falls in love with a beautiful girl from Kansas City, played by Gene Tierney. The film covers Van Cleve's life from childhood through a reckless adolescence up through his happy marriage and the years after his wife dies. It's a sentimental journey told with much levity.

The film has a number of terrific character actors in it, the most notable performance coming from Charles Coburn, who plays the grandfather everyone wishes they had - quick witted, caring, and always supportive of his grandson. Marjorie Main, Eugene Palette (the froggy-voice friar in Mark of Zorro), Spring Byington, and Louis Calhern make up the rest of the supporting cast.

While I enjoyed this film, it's not as well-crafted as some of his earlier work. Perhaps the "Lubitsch touch" had worn itself out, and perhaps the changing times had caught up to him. Considering that the war was going on at the time, the film does seem a bit out of place. Perhaps that accounts for the lack of depth in some of the performances.

I rarely bother to look up who the art director was in a film, but the visuals in this one were so striking, I had to know who was responsible. James Basevi was the art director (basically, the interior scenery) and was much used by Hollywood's leading directors of the time - Hitchcock and John Ford among them. The lobby of the waiting room for Hell was especially appealing in a 40's art deco way.

This was the final hit film Ernst Lubitsch ever produced. He made a few more films in the following years, inconsequential stuff compared to his earlier work, then passed away in 1947, during a period when Hollywood was turning to the stark reality of film noir.

By contemporary standards, this film is a bit light, but it's funny and touching in its sentimentality, and it's an enjoyable bit of entertainment from a bygone era.


When Henry Van Cleeve dies, he feels that he only deserves to go to the place downstairs. "His Excellency" tells Henry that hell does not accept any riff-raff and asks what major crime he has committed to gain entry. Henry says that the crime is the way he lived his life, especially the way he treated the women in his life, and more specifically his wife Martha, whose heart he stole from his cousin and had to continually win back on occasions. As Henry tells the story, will the things he has done in his life gain him entrance to eternal damnation. The film doesn't have the smoothness of other Lubitsch films, but the master of the romantic comedy does cast his magic wand giving the film the charm it takes advantage of. Ameche does a good job of underplaying his role by being the charming and suave self that he is in many of his films. Tierney, is also enchanting and beautiful, but seems to be playing off the rest of the cast rather than help herself in that category. Colburn (Grandfather) and Cregar (His Excelleny) are also great in the small roles. Great ending. Rating, 7.


A tale of a charming rogue directed by Ernst Lubitsch--but the great expectations aroused by that description are let down by casting (the un-roguish Don Ameche) and the demands of the period. In the Twenties and Thirties, Lubitsch directed some of the most exquisitely naughty movies ever made, full of Continental charm, in which the women are as clever and independent as the men. But this kind of material didn't suit the setting here, of Victorian America, or the stricter morals necessary after the adoption of the Production Code in 1934. Much of the wit is blunted, and its intrinsic cruelty is softened or denied. Gene Tierney winks so often at her husband's adultery it's a wonder she isn't cross-eyed. While earlier audiences could laugh and take this film at its own valuation, it is now difficult not to squirm at her humiliation--or wonder if her finding him endearing isn't a cover-up for her real motivation, his wealth and social position.

Another reviewer thinks the movie might have been improved by showing the husband's affairs rather than just alluding to them--they are very deliberately not shown because they would add an unwelcome note of reality. How sympathetic would the audience be after seeing Ameche kissing and fondling another woman, assuring her that he loves her, and that he doesn't care for his wife?

Despite all this, and despite the rather leaden pace, I emphatically recommend this movie. While it does not compare well with Lubitsch's earlier films, it is way above nearly every movie of today. There are plenty of neat jokes, in the art direction as well as the script, a deliciously sour performance from Charles Coburn as the story's one outspoken cynic, and an enchanting one from Signe Hasso as the ooh-la-la French maid. Pretending deep sympathy with the young man of the house, resentful at being kept in knickerbockers when he has the soul of an adult, she coos, with an irony he does not hear, "I understand--your soul is bigger than your pants." Which, in a way, sums up the movie.


In the old days, they produced a lot of movies that made light of a man's infidelity, such as "The Women" (1939), "The Philadelphia Story" (1940), and, of course, "Heaven Can Wait." Perhaps it was because a divorce was harder to get in those days, or maybe it was that women had a much harder time supporting themselves when they did get a divorce. But the moral of such stories seems to be that women should forgive their philandering husband because their indiscretions are not serious, that their husbands really loved them deep down, and that such men are really just like cute, little, mischievous boys. Such movies helped women accept the fact that they were stuck in a loveless marriage, and they undoubtedly assuaged any feelings of guilt men might have for having been unfaithful. Now that divorces are easier to get, and women are better able to support themselves, we don't see such movies any more. Instead, a modern movie is more likely to treat adultery as being as painful and insulting as it really is.

They may have cast creepy Laird Cregar in the role of the Devil, nattily attired, with the appropriate beard and mustache neatly trimmed, so as to make him look the part, but he is so kind and sympathetic that we can only wish most people were as considerate and caring as he is. The idea of giving us a Devil who is not really evil is to underscore the idea that adultery (on the part of a man, of course) is not really a sin. We don't believe that Henry Van Cleve should burn for eternity in the fires of Hell, but we don't believe he deserves a forgiving wife like Martha either.


Playboy Henry van Cleve (Don Ameche) is waiting in Hell to see whether he can get in or not as he doesn't think Heaven will accept him. Satan (or "His Excellency" played by Laird Cregar) isn't convinced that Van Cleeve belongs in Hell, so Henry tells him the story of his life. Through flashbacks, the story of his life is told from way back when he was born.

Heaven Can Wait is a truly magnificent film - witty at times, but also quite sad. It is in glorious technicolour, making it a visual splendor. Lavish costumes, sets - you name it. They really went out on this one! The content of this film is definitely ahead of its time as it depicts the character's commitment to a partner and a lifetime of promiscuity. Ernst Lubitsch does a fantastic job as director - I would say one of his best films.

Heaven Can Wait is a beautiful film, glorious to see and entertaining to watch. Very beautiful indeed.


At the top of the list of Don Ameche's best films, in that first five, Heaven Can Wait is always listed. As a film with that inimitable Ernest Lubitsch touch, how could it miss?

The very dapper an elegant Mr. Henry Van Cleave has arrived at the entrance to the underworld where he feels given the risqué life he's led on earth, he feels he belongs. To convince the Prince of Darkness, Laird Cregar, that he should be his guest for eternity. And he tells him his life story to prove his case.

We see Don Ameche at the various stages of his life during this film and the picture we get of him is a very decent man, but one who could not resist a pretty face or a pretty ankle, depending on which order he noticed them. Nevertheless he does meet the girl of his dreams, Gene Tierney, and while she kept him on the straight and narrow, it wasn't without a look here and there to the side.

Some of Hollywood's favorite character actors show up in this film which is one of the reasons it's such a favorite. It's hard to pick from a cast that includes Signe Hasso, Spring Byington, Marjorie Main, Louis Calhern, Eugene Palette, Allyn Joslyn, and Charles Coburn any particular favorite.

But I'd have to say my favorite is Laird Cregar. There has never been a more cultivated or civilized Satan on the screen before or since. Cregar's performance more than anything else is symbolic of the Lubitsch touch.

Heaven Can Wait is an interesting commentary on our system of morals. Don Ameche's character is absolutely sure he's going to hell and if you listened to fundamentalist ministers he sure would be. Apparently for Laird Cregar's place though, if you spread some happiness in life you certainly don't qualify for admission. An interesting criteria, don't you think.

Don Ameche is charming, Gene Tierney is beautiful, the script is witty and bright, the direction faultless. Can't do better than that.


When the film was firstly broadcasting in Italy, due the democratic Catholic party, the end of the movie was changed, Van Cleve doesn't go down in the lift following the beautiful girl, but go up to Paradise. the meaning is that heaven is better than any nice girl, this from the catholic point of view. this was not accordingly by the meaning of the movie. so in Italy all the people, who has not seen the original version, has seen a ending that is shorter than in the original movie. in any case a very wonderful movie. also I appreciated very much the wonderful song "the sheik of Araby" that was included in the movie. I was only disappointed that this movie is not yet on DVD,


Heaven Can Wait is a very bad movie that can be summarized as follows:

Strengths: Excellent production values; lavish, over-the-top decor and costumes; glorious technicolor photography; scene of Eugene Palette and Marjorie Main at table

Weaknesses: Characterless, watery, stone-age, middlebrow humor; lame, stilted dialogue; very stereotyped and completely shallow family dynamics driving all of the action; some *Really* bad acting (especially the teenaged versions of the male characters and the voice of the stupendously irritating "mademoiselle" character)

The first half hour and the last 15 minutes were especially painful and I was very tempted to walk out but, somehow, suffered through the whole thing. I regretted going to see this movie and would not wish the experience of seeing it on my worst enemy.


Lubitsch was on a roll in 1943; since 1938 he had made Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, Ninotchka, The Shop Around The Corner, That Uncertain Feeling and To Be Or Not To Be, five classics one after another and although he would complete two more movies and leave one unfinished Heaven Can Wait was his last undisputed masterpiece. Only watch this if you value Style, Wit, Charm, Sophistication and gentle storytelling but if you do respond to those qualities you'll adore this story of a lovable roue' who is quite content to wind up in hell with no regrets, an attitude that intrigues Laird Creagar's devil, so much so that he prevails upon Henry Van Cleve to recount his life on earth. As Van Cleve the normally wooden Don Ameche actually gives a performance under the tuition of Lubitsch, one that is matched by leading lady Gene Tierney but this duo is only the tip of an iceberg comprising the cream of Hollywood supporting actors from Charles Coburn through Spring Byington, Clarence Muse, Eugene Palette, Marjorie Main and Allyn Joslyn. An utter delight.


Apart from the fact that both films deal with the afterlife, there is no connection between this "Heaven Can Wait" and the 1978 Warren Beatty/Julie Christie vehicle. (Confusingly, that film was a remake of another early forties comedy, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan", which was based upon a stage play named "Heaven Can Wait". The 1943 "Heaven Can Wait" was based on a stage play entitled "Birthday").

The 1943 film opens with an elderly man named Henry van Cleve arriving in Hell, where he is greeted in person by Satan himself, referred to here as "His Excellency". Henry believes that he has led an immoral, dissolute life and that he therefore belongs in Hell. His Excellency, however, is not convinced that Henry is as wicked as he makes out, and asks him to tell his life story.

Henry, it appears, was born in New York in 1872, the son of wealthy parents. An only child, he is spoilt by his parents and grandparents and grows into an idle young man whose main interests in life are girls, girls and more girls (especially young actresses). In his twenties he elopes with the beautiful Martha Strabel, the daughter of a Kansas meat-packer and the fiancée of his stuffy, boring cousin Albert. Despite being married to a girl with the looks of Gene Tierney, Henry cannot help chasing after other women, and after ten years of marriage Martha runs back to her parents in Kansas, only for Henry to pursue her and persuade her to return. The film then leaps forward another fifteen years to the couple's silver wedding anniversary, shortly after which Martha dies of some unspecified illness. Henry, however, lives to a ripe old age, as much of a reprobate as ever, and eventually dies (fittingly enough) in the arms of a pretty young nurse. Having heard all this, His Excellency must decide whether Henry is worthy to be admitted to Hell.

Throughout his adult life, the role of Henry is played by the same actor, Don Ameche. (Two child actors play him as a boy). This was a remarkable feat, as Henry ages from a teenager to an old man in his seventies, yet Ameche (35 at the time) is able to make him seem credible at all stages of his life. (The make-up department also deserve a lot of credit for their contribution in this respect). As for Tierney (23 at the time), she was probably the most beautiful actress of the period and is absolutely radiant here, especially in the early scenes. Unfortunately, the make-up artists were less successful with her than they were with Ameche, and never really overcame the difficult problem of how to make a beautiful young woman look older. (Elizabeth Taylor faced the same problem in "Giant").Martha in her thirties looks exactly the same as she did in her twenties, and even in her fifties the only difference is that she has a few grey hairs. There are also good supporting performances by Laird Cregar as Satan, played here as an urbane, well-dressed gentleman, and from Charles Coburn as Henry's wicked old grandfather from whom he inherits his roguish tendencies. (His parents are just as dull and conventional as Albert).

The film was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, a German-born director who had emigrated to America in the 1920s, and based upon a play by a Hungarian-born playwright. It is therefore hardly surprising that it has a certain urbane Central European sophistication about it. Although the action takes place in New York, it could equally well be set in fin-de-siecle Old Vienna. (Another Old World touch is the suggestion that Henry might end up in Purgatory- a rather surprising reference to a Catholic doctrine in a film from a mainly Protestant Anglo-Saxon country). Although it is not a "sex comedy" in the sense that we would understand the term today, a comedy of manners based around marital infidelity must have seemed very daring and sophisticated in the rather puritanical 1940s. The critic Michael Wilmington described Lubitsch as "a man who was amused by sex rather than frightened of it-- and who taught a whole culture to be amused by it as well", and these words seem an apt summing-up of "Heaven Can Wait".

Today, nearly seventy years on, comedies about adultery are no longer the latest word in sophistication, and many films of this type from the forties, and even from the fifties and sixties, can seem very dated today. "Heaven Can Wait" has not entirely escaped this fate, but some decent acting and its lightness of touch mean that it holds up better than many. 7/10


The Devil (Laird Cregar), elegantly attired in a double-breasted suit, tells recently deceased Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) politely to get the hell out of his place of business. Henry insists he deserves to be "down" there but Big D thinks otherwise. This gives Henry the opportunity to tell his life story and try to convince dandy D to let him stay, and what a story it is.

In Ernst Lubitsch's romantic comedy, Heaven Can Wait (1943), the flashback tale of Henry's life and loves is told with charm and flourish. Death and the afterlife serve merely as a backdrop. Shot in brilliant Technicolor, the film is set in New York at the turn of the last century. Henry first wins Martha (Gene Tierney) by sweeping her off her feet after a chance meeting at a bookstore (she wants to buy a book called "How To Make Your Husband Happy"). Ably abetted by Grandpa Hugo Van Cleve (Charles Coburn), he proceeds to steal her away in the middle of the night from her uptight fiancée, cousin Albert (Allyn Joslyn).

Grandpa, whose quiet wit and good humor never falters, really admires Henry and helps him to stay on track, even helping him, when she runs away after ten years of marriage, to find her and rescue her from her well-to-do parents. Why did she leave? It seems that Henry was a bit of a rogue and wasn't always faithful to his wife. He was also fairly loose with his money. Yet, how can you dislike Henry? He is so charming, so elegant, (and so giving of his affections to young ladies) and Gene Tierney has never looked so glamorous.

Though I had to cringe at some of the old-style racial stereotyping, it really wasn't unexpected for the time, and I found this film to be thoroughly delightful. There are really no unlikable characters here - Lubitsch accepts people's foibles as natural and makes them endearing. It all adds up to two hours of pleasure.


This Ernst Lubitsch romantic comedy is a great celebration of turn-of-the-century New York. Don Ameche is magnificent as a scamp who feels he should go straight to hell upon his death. Laird Cregar ("His Excellency") makes the most outrageously perfect Satan of all time.

The film has an intimate sense of history and humanity. Allyn Joslyn is great has Ameche's priggish cousin. And Gene Tierney has the perfect chemistry with Ameche. Highly recommended.


Finally got to see this one that my mother – bless her – told me about when I was boy in the 1940s...

The narrative follows the flashback story of a contemporary and well-to-do philanderer. He's dead and presents himself at the gate to hell because he thinks he's not worthy to enter heaven. And so follows a light-hearted, quite frivolous, and somewhat entertaining story of why he should think that.

I'd seen Don Ameche in other movies, but this was the youngest Don I've seen, playing the part of the dead man, Henry Van Cleve. Smooth, sophisticated and smart – Henry sweeps them off their feet so easily. Gene Tierney appears as his true love, Martha – whom Henry does love – and suffers his transgressions, leaves him once, but of course he wins her back, thereby adhering to the (self-administered) film code of that time.

Charles Coburn, appearing as Henry's grandfather, Hugo, practically steals every scene he is in and, for my money, is the most effective actor in the film; while Louis Calhern as Henry's father, Randolph, is suitably urbane, buffoonish and a bore, and as only Calhern can do it. In fact, he played the same role practically, in High Society (1956).

It was amazing to see Majorie Main, as Mrs Strabel, speak quietly; I'd gotten so used to her as Ma Kettle, always screeching at others.

It's a well-polished production. The script is scintillating, the music is great, the sound is excellent and the colour is brilliant: All in all, an excellent example of Classic Hollywood production standards.

I just found the story a bit boring in parts, too heavy-handed perhaps, and perhaps tried to include too much. For example, the scene where Mr and Mrs Strabel verbally fought over a comic strip in a newspaper was gratuitous, in my opinion. For the time, it was probably funny; today, it's just dull and pointless.

That apart, you could spend 112 minutes in worse ways, I guess. For all to see.
Lahorns Gods

Lahorns Gods

I've seen this movie several times on TV (waiting for it to come out on DVD) and each time is a good as the previous. It is so funny, so charming, so well done. The acting is purposely on the side of "hammy", but it works.

Don Ameche is absolutely charming as the lovable husband who just can't seem to say no .. or hear it anyway. He loves women and spends his life trying to get them to love him. But how can anyone resist that charm?

But what really makes this movie a gem is the writing. Line after line of comic genius delivered with precision timing.

I highly recommend this movie for your library. It's a movie that all ages can enjoy despite the B&W old style filming.


Ernst Lubitsch directs Heaven Can Wait with his usual taste and flair, but the film is surprisingly dull and sentimental compared to his best work. It lacks the irony and sophistication of Trouble in Paradise, the comic energy of To Be or Not To Be, or the humanity of The Shop Around the Corner. Much of the problem seems to lie in an unusually flat script from the great Samson Raphaelson. The story of recently deceased Henry Van Cleve recounting his lecherous escapades to "His Excellency" down below in order to gain entrance to Hell seems ripe for a Lubitsch film, and the opening sequence in the amazing art deco lobby of the Inferno shows great promise, but the story has a maudlin quality that it never really escapes.

We're never shown any of Henry's love affairs, which, in hindsight, the film could have probably used. Don Ameche is at his best in Heaven Can Wait when he gets to turn on the charm. Instead, we're only told about the episodes indirectly via conversations between Henry and his long-suffering wife, Martha. The story also seems conflicted in its purposes. On one hand, Raphaelson and Lubitsch try tugging at our heart-strings by having us feel sympathy for Martha as she struggles with Henry's indiscretions, and on the other, we're supposed to laugh with Henry precisely BECAUSE he's constantly cheating on his wife. That's just the way he is, we're instructed, and isn't he still wonderful? Even the Devil finds Henry charming and his infidelity a mere trifle. We all know that lovable Henry really belongs in Heaven with the wife he cheated on for several decades. It's a fairly sexist film in that regard. Somehow, the charming scoundrel element doesn't work in Heaven Can Wait as it does in so many other Hollywood films. Perhaps Don Ameche doesn't have the Cary Grant panache to carry it off. He does make a rather listless Lothario in this one. Gone is that dynamic energy he had in a film like Midnight, which is a superior work based on somewhat similar themes. In that case, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett out-Lubitsched the director they admired so much. But I'm not sure Grant or any other scoundrel could have done much with Raphaelson's script. Ameche does what he can.

The rest of the cast is quite good, with Charles Coburn at his mischievous best, and several fine secondary actors. Gene Tierney does well in a difficult role, though her hairstyle when Martha gets older has not lasted well through the ages. Somehow this very beautiful actress winds up looking a bit like the Bride of Frankenstein. Overall, Heaven Can Wait is a solid film, with some good moments strewn about here and there. But it's not Lubitsch at his best.