In 1941, a wonderful movie called Here Comes Mr. Jordan was released; in 1943 one of my favorite films called Heaven Can Wait came out; in 1978, a movie called Heaven Can Wait was released. Oddly enough, the 1978 Heaven Can Wait's exact plot was based on Here Comes Mr. Jordan, but the title was the same as another classic film from the same era. "What gives??" I asked myself over and over when I was fifteen and realized the connections. Why the hell did Warren Beatty do that (by the way, Warren Beatty was the director, writer, and producer of the 1978 version)?
From some research, I found out that the original play that Here Comes Jordan was based on was called Heaven Can Wait, but the playwright (who wrote the film's story), gave the movie a different title. Why, I'm not sure. That's Hollywood for you. So Warren Beatty was actually staying faithful to the original play. However, in the classic film world, it's impossible not to think of one movie without the other. Why I think Here Comes Mr. Jordan and Heaven Can Wait (both versions) are also compared to each other is that they are both fantasy comedies and they both deal with death and the afterlife.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan is about a boxer (Robert Montgomery) who is taken away from Earth long before his time. He gets a chance to return to mortal form, but his body is cremated before he could get back. He then temporarily inhabits another body of a man who was actually supposed to die when Joe (Montgomery) was mistakenly taken away. Realizing that in his new body he can make a difference and right the wrongs of the previous tenant, he decides to stay in the body for a long time. Oh, and he falls in love. Beatty's film follows the same plot, but his character is a football player instead. There was even a sequel released in 1947 called Down to Earth, but the only two actors starring from the original film were James Gleason and Edward Everett Horton. Besides Beatty's film, Here Comes Mr. Jordan was remade again in 2001 with Chris Rock called Down to Earth, but it did not have the same plot of the sequel.
Heaven Can Wait (1943) is about recently deceased Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche), who enters extravagant Hell and tells his life story to His Excellency (Laird Cregar). We flashback to his infancy, childhood, young adulthood, marriage, fatherhood, and old age. Henry is trying to prove he belongs in Hell, but after hearing his story, the powers that be encourage him to go to, 'the other place.'
Next time you want to do a triple feature night, I definitely recommend watching all three movies in chronological order. Also, with Heaven Can Wait (1943) being in the middle, it breaks up the different stories.