Heaven Can Wait (1978 film)
|Heaven Can Wait|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Warren Beatty
|Produced by||Warren Beatty|
|Screenplay by||Warren Beatty
|Music by||Dave Grusin|
|Cinematography||William A. Fraker|
|Edited by||Robert C. Jones
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Heaven Can Wait is a 1978 American comedy film co-directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry. It is the second film adaptation of Harry Segall's stageplay of the same name, preceded by Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) and followed by Down to Earth (2001). Beatty stars in the lead role, playing a football player who, after being killed in a collision accident, is sent back to earth in the body of a millionaire. The film reunites Beatty and Julie Christie, who also starred together in the 1971 McCabe & Mrs. Miller and the 1975 Shampoo.
Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), a backup quarterback for the American football team Los Angeles Rams, is looking forward to leading his team to the Super Bowl. While riding his bicycle through the Mulholland Drive tunnel under Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles, he collides with a truck. An over-anxious guardian angel (Buck Henry) on his first assignment plucks Joe out of his body early, in the mistaken belief that his death is imminent, and Pendleton arrives in the afterlife.
Once there, he refuses to believe that his time was up and, upon investigation, the mysterious Mr. Jordan (James Mason) discovers that he is right: he was not destined to die until much later (10:17 am on March 20, 2025, to be exact). Unfortunately, his body has already been cremated, so a new body must be found. After rejecting several possibilities of men who are about to die, Joe is finally persuaded to accept the body of a millionaire industrialist. Leo Farnsworth has just been drugged and drowned in his bathtub by his wife Julia Farnsworth (Dyan Cannon) and her lover, Farnsworth's personal secretary, Tony Abbott (Charles Grodin).
Julia and Tony are naturally confused when Leo reappears, alive and well. Leo buys the Los Angeles Rams to lead them to the Super Bowl as their quarterback. To succeed, he must first convince, and then secure the aid of, long-time friend and trainer Max Corkle (Jack Warden) to get his new body in shape. At the same time, he falls in love with an environmental activist, Betty Logan (Julie Christie), who disapproves of Farnsworth's policies and actions.
As the film's plotline heads toward the Super Bowl, the characters all face a crisis. Julia and Abbott continue their murderous plans, and Abbott shoots Farnsworth dead. The Rams are forced to start another quarterback, Thomas Jarrett, in the climactic football game. After a brutal hit on the field, Jarrett is himself killed. With Mr. Jordan's help, Joe then occupies his final body, that of Jarrett. Joe is shown snapping to life in Jarrett's body, then leading the Rams to victory.
During the team's post-game victory celebration, Mr. Jordan removes Joe's memory of his past life and departs. Joe becomes Thomas Jarrett and the cosmic balance is restored; the winning quarterback, Jarrett, is shown meeting Betty after the celebrations have ended and as the film ends it is strongly implied that they are falling in love as a result of a mutual sense of déjà vu.
- Warren Beatty as Joe Pendleton/Leo Farnsworth/Tom Jarrett
- Julie Christie as Betty Logan
- James Mason as Mr. Jordan
- Jack Warden as Max Corkle
- Charles Grodin as Tony Abbott
- Dyan Cannon as Julia Farnsworth
- Buck Henry as The Escort
- Vincent Gardenia as Det. Lt. Krim
- Joseph Maher as Sisk
- Hamilton Camp as Bentley
- Arthur Malet as Everett
- Stephanie Faracy as Corinne
- Jeannie Linero as Lavinia
- John Randolph as Former owner
- Richard O'Brien as Former owner's advisor
- Deacon Jones as Gorman
- Les Josephson as Owens
- Jack T. Snow as Cassidy
- Jim Boeke as Kowalsky
- Charley Cowan (uncredited) as Football player
- Jerry Scanlan as Hodges
- Bryant Gumbel (uncredited) as TV sportscaster
- Curt Gowdy
- Al DeRogatis
- Peter Tomarken as Reporter
- Larry Block as Peters
In addition to the former Rams football players mentioned above, some well-known sportscasters also appear, playing familiar roles. Bryant Gumbel is seen in the background of one scene on TV, delivering a sportscast. Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis can be heard doing the Super Bowl play-by-play commentary. Dick Enberg conducts an abortive post-game interview of Joe Pendleton/Tom Jarrett.
Beatty lobbied hard for Cary Grant to accept the role of Mr. Jordan, going so far as to have Grant's ex-wife, Dyan Cannon, who stars as Julia Farnsworth, urge him to take the part. Although Grant was tempted, he ultimately decided not to end his retirement from filmmaking.
Future game-show host Peter Tomarken appears as a reporter in the film.
Beatty initially wanted Muhammad Ali to play the central character, but because of Ali's continued commitment to boxing, Beatty changed the character from a boxer to an American football player and played it himself. The type of instrument he played was also changed; in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Pendelton essays "The Last Rose of Summer" on the alto saxophone, while in the 1978 film he plays Ciribiribin on a soprano sax. The training music is Handel's sonata no 12 op 1, in F major, HWV 370 allegro 2. Beatty also wanted legendary actor and his idol, Cary Grant to play the role of Mr. Jordan. Grant passed on the role, Beatty begged Grant to play the role and Beatty even pleaded to Grant's ex-wife, Dyan Cannon to also beg him to play the role. Ultimately, Mr. Jordan was played by James Mason.
The year after the film's release, life appeared to imitate art when the Rams made the Super Bowl and played the Pittsburgh Steelers, their fictional opponents in this film (no Hollywood ending in real life, though, since the Rams lost 31-19.) Another near coincidence was that the 1980 Super Bowl was played in Los Angeles, but at the Rose Bowl, not the Rams' home of the Coliseum, as depicted in the film.
Awards and nominations
The film won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Paul Sylbert, Edwin O'Donovan, George Gaines), and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Warren Beatty), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Warden), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Dyan Cannon), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Music, Original Score, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Elaine May and Warren Beatty).
- American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Fantasy Film
References in popular culture
Anytime Eddie Izzard impersonates God in his comedy, he employs an impression of James Mason.
- Box Office Information for Heaven Can Wait. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- "Heaven Can Wait, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
- "Charley Cowan NFL & AFL Football Statistics". Pro-Football-Reference.com. 1938-06-19. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
- "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-12-20.[dead link]
- . Rotten Tomatoes https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1009427-heaven_can_wait/#contentReviews. Retrieved July 29, 2013. Missing or empty
- "NY Times: Heaven Can Wait". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-12.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-12.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-12.
- Heaven Can Wait at the Internet Movie Database
- Heaven Can Wait at AllMovie
- Heaven Can Wait at Box Office Mojo
- Heaven Can Wait at Rotten Tomatoes