Heaven Can Wait (1943)

Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch, 1943)

An old roué arrives in Hades to review his life with Satan, who will rule on his eligibility to enter the Underworld.
Heaven Can Wait (1943) on IMDb
Continuing the quest into my first goal in film watching, to watch the entire list of the 1000 Greatest Films of All Time of TSPDT, and my mini quest into this objective, watch in priority the films of the Pantheon Directors as stated by the late Andrew Sarris in his reference book American Cinema. I had only two films from director Ernst Lubitsch to see. Along with Heaven Can Wait, I have Angel to catch sometime soon. This one being my number 527 on the big total of 1000 I am slowly getting through the list one title at a time. Then it’s 473 films to watch, it means that I’ll be blogging and watching movies for a long time. In the same time you have some retro reviews I’m constantly writing to try to cover every entry on this list. Of the 527 movies I’ve seen almost half the films have been reviewed here. To get to those films quickly I have a 1000gf label that you can click on and discover the many titles already reviewed. I’m planning a whole big post about this obsession some time soon.

Let’s get to the movie directed by Ernst Lubitsch,  of his films I’ve seen and loved to different degrees; The Shop Around the Corner, To Be or Not to Be, Ninotchka, Design For Living, and Trouble in Paradise. Everyone who gets into his films will sense something called the “Lubitsch touch”. Many have tried to imitate it or reuse it but no one was Lubitsch other than Ernst Lubitsch himself. This so-called touch is a balanced mix of comedy, witty dialogues, quirky behaviors, a sense for bourgeoisie, and something a little bit of chivalrous.

In Heaven Can Wait, Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) arrives in Hades and must recall his life with the prince of darkness to see if he should be down in Hell or up in Heaven. Shot in bright colors and filled with superb costumes, the delicious dialogues and the subtle humor of the script makes this film a nice companion piece to a Max Ophüls film.

However, it felt a little flat for me and amongst the many Lubitsch films I’ve seen, this is my least favorite. The themes of a man loving beautiful women and getting to Hell for it seems a little conventional and too much Hayes coded. Far from being as great as Design For Living, his pre-code movie about a ménage à trois where two men a woman talk freely of sex, passion, and love. Heaven Can Wait is a little too sophisticated and of good taste in the filmography of our talented director.

At last, the role of Martha portrayed by beautiful brunette Gene Tierney is a much appreciated presence. Of all the beautiful young ladies in Heaven Can Wait she is the prettiest.
All in all, this average Lubitsch is not a torture and his lesser films are far better than any film from an average director. Recommended.


  1. I liked this film, but didn't love it. I didn't think the guy was that bad, although some women might disagree with me. I haven't seen the 1970s remake yet, but I will sometime since it was nominated for Best Picture.

    1. Haven't seen the remake either. My least favorite Lubitsch so far.


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