Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Here Comes Mr. Jordan ★★★½

Robert Montgomery plays a boxer with a penchant for playing the saxophone and flying his own plane to his fights. One day his plane has a technical problem (while he is playing the sax at the wheel, which I originally thought was going to be the cause of his problem...but the two are unrelated and the plane would've gone into a dive even if he HADN'T been playing the sax at the time) and he winds up in Heaven.

The thing is, the angel who plucked him from the plane just before it crashed (played by Edward Everett Horton) was a bit overzealous. It turns out that the boxer would have survived the crash, but now he's dead and his body has been cremated before he can be returned to it. Now it's up to the angel's supervisor, Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains) to find a replacement body in which the boxer can live out the rest of his allotted time on Earth. But, in the meantime, he's placed in the body of a millionaire who was drowned by his scheming wife and secretary until a suitable replacement can be found. While there, he falls in love with a young lady (Evelyn Keyes) and gets in contact with his old fight manager (James Gleason).

"Here Comes Mr. Jordan" is a nice little story with an original premise and some fun developments along the way. It's never quite uproarious (though it's occasionally very amusing), overall it's a bit too gentle for that. It's inventive and clever, with a big heart and a touch of sap and a winningly earnest central performance by Robert Montgomery. Someone with a bit more charisma might have made "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" a bit better, but as is he's perfectly fine. As usual with movies of this era, the supporting cast is a big reason for its success. Edward Everett Horton is nicely befuddled as the overzealous angel and Claude Rains exudes class, as always, as Mr. Jordan. Rains seems perpetually amused by the plight of his charge, which is fun. James Gleason gets most of the movie's laughs as Montgomery's put-upon manager, who accepts every outlandish development with a shrug and an incredulous expression, but has faith enough to roll with every curve ball nonetheless.

"Here Comes Mr. Jordan" is lacking something that the best movies of this sort have, maybe it's a more dynamic lead performance, or more chemistry between the romantic players. But it's nice. It's sweet and clever and fun. But Warren Beatty didn't improve on this formula in the 1978 remake, "Heaven Can Wait", despite the additions of Charles Grodin and Jack Warden. Maybe the story itself needs a bit of fine-tuning. (I haven't seen Chris Rock's remake, "Down to Earth", but I doubt it's any better than the other two.) It's fine, and perfectly enjoyable, but there's just something holding it back from being a true classic. Maybe it's just too nice, solid but unspectacular. Maybe it needs to be a bit more screwball or a bit more serious instead of straddling the line between both things.

And, really, it's a pleasant little picture as is. I can't really put my finger on why I didn't like it more. Maybe I should just shut up. If this interests you, give it a look. It's quite good...though I get the nagging feeling that it could have been even better...somehow.

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