Owen’s review published on Letterboxd:
I think I'm getting a bit jumbled on the weeks but this is for Week 22 of the Letterboxd challenge, screwball week.
The challenge was to watch an unseen one of Byrge and Miller's Screwball list, I've seen 84% of the list and have left a couple that are impossible to find and some that I've not mustered enthusiasm enough to watch, and this, which is well thought of and a bit of an oddity.
I'd argue against it being screwball in the classic sense of the romantic comedies that came in with the introduction of the code and unavoidably had to replace sex, surely the mainstay of the romantic comedy, with wackiness and coded messages.
This actually has more in common with things like The Devil and Mr Johnson, I married a Witch, On Borrowed Time or the film whose title the remake stole Heaven Can Wait. Comedies that mix a super natural element with some moralising of one stripe or other. Or of course A Matter of Life and Death.
Robert Montgomery's never less convincing boxing champ is taken for dead by an over enthusiastic heavenly agent and gets given a few more shots at life in the bodies of recently murdered men.
The early scenes feature the dynamite double act of Claude Rains and Edward Everett Horton as Angelic agents of differing ranks, a good script and Montgomery on fine form however miscast he might be as a boxing contender. I liked the bickering and the high concept a lot as Montgomery adjusts to the situation.
However for most of the movie we have Montgomery living as a murdered society guy, trying to right his wrongs and falling in love with Evelyn Keyes and getting back together with his boxing trainer to have a shot at the world title. It's decent and there's still some Rains and Montgomery is perfectly likeable but its never exactly funny.
It ends as a drawing room farce before starting again as a boxing movie, with battling jack Murdoch being done over when the fix comes in. It has earned some good will by that point and actually sells it's big romantic ending but again isn't exactly funny.
If you're as big a 30s comedy fan as I am you end up seeing a lot of Alexander Hall's movies. They're generally watchable, this one is probably better than most and is certainly the best known, I'll watch Claude Rains in just about anything and Montgomery and Horton are pretty reliable but it's by no means special and you end up realising that the first act is the best bit.