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Heaven Can Wait (1943)

Unrated | | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | 13 August 1943 (USA)
An old roué arrives in Hades to review his life with Satan, who will rule on his eligibility to enter the Underworld.



(screenplay), (play) (as Lazlo Bus-Fekete)

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Nominated for 3 Oscars. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Helene Reynolds ...
Peggy Nash
Tod Andrews ...
Jack Van Cleve (as Michael Ames)


Henry Van Cleve presents himself at the gates of Hell only to find he is closely vetted on his qualifications for entry. Surprised there is any question on his suitability, he recounts his lively life and the women he has known from his mother onwards, but mainly concentrating on his happy but sometimes difficult twenty-five years of marriage to Martha. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

hell | money | hades | birthday | marriage | See All (223) »


He believed in Love . . . Honor . . . and Obey - That Impulse!


Unrated | See all certifications »





Release Date:

13 August 1943 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El diablo dijo no  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Randolph Van Cleve was born in 1844. See more »


When Henry first notices Martha in the department store at the telephones, a shadow of the camera rig falls across Martha as the scene and camera slides from right to left across the partition between the telephones. See more »


Henry Van Cleve: Martha, if I hadn't met you I'd hate to think where I'd be right now.
Martha: Well, probably outside some stage door, or even inside the dressing room, and having a wonderful time.
See more »


Referenced in Hostage (2005) See more »


Auld Lang Syne
Played during the birthday montage
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User Reviews

21 May 2005 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

Ernst Lubitsch was a man destined to take the play in which this film is based to the screen. The results are amazing. This 1943 movie continues to charm audiences after all these years. Credit must go to the great Lubitsch who shows his light touch on this delightful comedy.

Since the film is based on the play "Birthday", by Leslie Bush-Fedeke, the main idea behind the action is to present us Henry Van Cleve as he ages. The film opens as Henry is descending a long flight of stairs. He is an old man now. Henry meets an elegant man at the desk who will decide whether he will go down to hell, or to heaven. The story then goes back in flashbacks to show us what this Henry was really like while he lived.

Henry Van Cleve is part of a wealthy family from New York. When the film opens Henry is celebrating his 10th birthday. This involves being introduced to a French governess who will transform the boy for life. Then we see Henry as he is going to celebrate his 25th birthday. This is a most important date for him because he meets and falls in love with the lovely Martha Strabel, a beauty from Kansas, that is his idiotic cousin's fiancée. Needless to say, the handsome Henry falls in love with her and they elope.

Life has a way to get in the way of Henry as we see how he is handed tragedy when he loses his lovely Martha when she becomes sick. Ultimately, Henry himself, a mere mortal, dies after a long life that has been spent alone, living dedicated to his own son.

"Heaven can Wait" is a lovely film. Much credit has to go to its stars, Don Ameche and Gene Tierney, who make an excellent couple. They were at the top of their careers and guided by Mr. Lubitsch, their romance, while sweet, it's not sugary. Ms. Tierney's beauty adorns this film and Mr. Ameche is seen at his suavest self.

The supporting cast was a director's dream come true: Charles Coburn, Marjorie Main, Eugene Palette, Spring Byington, Louis Calhern, Laird Cregar, among others, give the film the elegance that Mr. Lubitsch used so well to enhance the movie.

A classic that will live forever!

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