HERE COMES MR JORDAN (1941)

PrintE-mail Written by John Higgins

If you are already familiar with Warren Beatty's 1978 Oscar-nominated film Heaven Can Wait, then you already have a sense of what the source material for Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) is, as both are adapted from the Harry Segall stage play, also called Heaven Can Wait.

This brand-new Blu-ray release has been put together courtesy of the long-established Criterion Collection, who was partly responsible for the resurrection of Blade Runner in the process that led to its re-release on the big screen in its Director's Cut in 1992. It is another winner, as the transfer is a stunning 1.33:1 black-and-white remastering that captures the essence of this vintage war-time classic at its best.

Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery) is a prize fighter en route to a key bout on his plane, against the wishes of his manager, Max 'Pop' Corkle (James Gleason). When a control cable severs, the plane crashes and Pendleton ends up in Heaven thanks to an overzealous angel (Edward Everett Horton) who after discussion with head angel Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains, in the role James Mason reprised in the Beatty remake), discovers he has been prematurely taken.

Things get complicated when, whilst trying to return Pendleton to Earth, the angel and Pendleton discover Corkle has cremated the body and is not due in Heaven for another 50 years. Mr. Jordan takes on the responsibility and after a long search comes upon a soon-to-be-murdered investor called Bruce Farnsworth and gives Joe the chance to use his body on the proviso he gets one more suited to his prize-fighting skills….

Here Comes Mr. Jordan belongs in the realm of other wartime classics like Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life, Blithe Spirit, and A Guy Named Joe (the source for Steven Spielberg's 1990 film Always) and is another gem that relies on great acting and directing to emphasize the fantasy over complex special effects, in this context very simple optical processes. Montgomery is excellent as the bemused lost soul and Rains holds the attention as the insightful Mr. Jordan.

The film endures after 75 years because of its universal story and characterization and makes you value your place in the world in the context of a very moral tale that also relies on a lack of profanity and explicit visuals to make a very effective statement about mortality and the spirituality of life. It may not have had the same visibility as the Capra classic and George Bailey's predicament as touchingly rendered by James Stewart, but such films like this deserve the love and care as Columbia have put into this new home release.

We are sure that a certain legendary boxer who left us recently will appreciate the essence of what this film reveals to the audience and I am also sure that if he had the chance, he could relive his life through another soul. Here Comes Mr. Jordan is another classic movie that gets to the very heart of the matter and has much to offer a family audience in the process. The extras include the obligatory trailer, plus a couple of discussions on the film and a theatrical performance.

HERE COMES MR JORDAN (1941) / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: ALEXANDER HALL / SCREENPLAY: ROBERT MONTGOMERY, EVELYN KEYES, CLAUDE RAINS, RITA JOHNSON / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 20TH

 

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