HEAVEN CAN WAIT
Heaven Can Wait was the directorial debut of actor Warren Beatty. At the time, Warren Beatty was a popular sex symbol and parlayed his success into being able to make a debut as a director here and has gone on to make the other occasional directorial outing over the years with the likes of Reds (1981) and Bulworth (1998). Beatty co-directs with Buck Henry, an actor best known as a comedy writer with the likes of The Graduate (1967) and Catch 22 (1970), as well as having created tvs Get Smart (1965-70).
It is hard to decide between Heaven Can Wait and Mr Jordan which is the better film. Both have the same woolly-headedness and corny sentimentalism. Of the two, Heaven Can Wait is certainly the more polished in that Warren Beatty and Buck Henry have a reasonable budget on hand, which has allowed them to expand beyond the original films inherent reliance on its stage origins. There is a certain amount of updating Joe is now a quarterback rather than a boxer; Max Corkle is able to switch on a tv to watch the game; and Betty Logan has been changed so as to allow a trendy commentary about big business rape of the environment and the underprivileged rather than coming to plead on behalf of a business partner who is about to be jailed. However, Here Comes Mr Mr Jordan has the edge in casting Warren Beattys lunkhead performance gets the mix of brawn-over-brains down with no effort but he is too cardboard to project any heart-of-gold in the way that Robert Mongtomery did; and James Masons prissy fastidious mannerisms seem miscast in the role of Mr Jordan. The rest of the cast are unmemorable with the exception of Dyan Cannon who is a scene-stealing joy with her bursts of hysterics and wide-eyed disbelief at the nonchalant, unconcerned reappearances of Beatty. Julie Christie seems to have befallen the costume designers who have determined for some reason to dress her as a middle-aged spinster.
The humour certainly comes with a greater ease here than it did in Here Comes Mr Jordan. Some of Dyan Cannons reactions at the dinnertable or the cool with which the servants handle Warren Beattys cupboard conversations with Mr Jordan are priceless. The film has a frivolous pleasantry but that also proves its undoing. The villains are far too light the story seems so unconcerned with them as serious figures that it never even bothers to include a scene where they are unmasked. None of the gaping holes in the original are patched up either one still asks why Farnsworths body can be resurrected from the dead when Joes cannot. The inherent wrongness in Heavens failure to alert Joe to the tragic end that Farnsworth faces still glares.
Heaven Can Wait was a huge success in the US and for inexplicable reasons fared enormously well at the Academy Awards, notching up nominations for Best Picture, Best Screen Adaptation, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Actor (Warren Beatty), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Warden) and Best Supporting Actress (Dyan Cannon), although it won only for Art Direction. The only nomination that seems to have any merit is Dyan Cannons. Again, it seems the case of a film that has been a popular sentimental success having been inflated far above its middle-of-the-road merit by the Academy. Certainly, the film lacked any enduring appeal and largely faded away in popularity only a few years after it was released.
Warren Beatty later returned to the fantasy genre as director with his adaptation of the comic-strip detective Dick Tracy (1990).