Thursday, May 21, 2009

God isn't perfect

Or at least, maybe his messengers aren't. That's the lesson that we learn at the beginning of the movie Here Comes Mr. Jordan, airing at 4:30 PM ET today on TCM.

Robert Montgomery stars as boxer Joe Pendleton, training for a prize fight. These were the days when boxing was romanticized, so instead of having tattooed thugs like Mike Tyson, you get a saxophone-playing, airplane-flying, high-class man like Montgomery. Unfortunately, though, his plane crashes on the way to New York City, and he "dies". Only thing is, he when he gets up to heaven, it's determined that he wasn't supposed to die, but, due to the incompetence of angel Edward Everett Horton, we have Joe Pendleton waiting for his trip to the pearly gates. Enter Horton's boss, Mr. Jordan, played by the inimitable Claude Raines. He eventually comes to a deal with Joe to send Joe back down to earth, putting him in another man's body.

Unfortunately, that man is a wealthy man who's got a wife who wants to murder him and run off with her lover! Along the way, Joe, who everybody else sees as that wealthy man, who was also a bit of a crook, meets the daughter of one of the people his body's previous owner defrauded (played by Evelyn Keyes, who is seen with Montgomery in the photo above). Needless to say, he's going to fall in love with her, something made more complicated by the fact that he's going to have to change bodies again.... Along the way, Joe, a boxer all along, still wants to compete in that title fight, and starts training in his new body, which of course throws everybody for a loop.

The cast is superb. In addition to all the people I've mentioned, watch for Joe's trainer, played by veteran character actor James Gleason. Gleason had supporting roles in scads of movies, from a brief appearance in The Broadway Melody through to playing the town drunk living in a dilapidated houseboat in Night of the Hunter. However, Here Comes Mr. Jordan marks Gleason's only Oscar nomination. Here Comes Mr. Jordan was, of course, remade in the 1970s under the title Heaven Can Wait (not to be confused with the 1940s movie with the same title), and again at the beginning of this century as Down to Earth. The original, as is often the case, is the best. Thankfully, it's on DVD, too, so you can watch it any time you wish.

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