1944 / B&W / 1:37 Academy / 137 min. / Street Date December 13, 2017 / Available from the Twilight Time Movies Store 29.95
Starring: Gregory Peck, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Rose Stradner, Roddy McDowall, Edmund Gwenn, Cedric Hardwicke, Peggy Ann Garner, Jane Ball, James Gleason, Anne Revere
Cinematography: Arthur Miller
Art Direction: James Basevi, William Darling
Film Editor: James B. Clark
Original Music: Alfred Newman
Written by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Nunnally Johnson from a novel by A.J. Cronin
Produced by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Directed by John M. Stahl
The Twilight Time label has access to much of the Fox library, and draws from the vault what’s been fully restored and what’s not already claimed elsewhere. Accompanying their UA- sourced disc of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s The Barefoot Contessa is a 1944 Fox release from the writer-director-producer, a big studio production directed in this case by John M. Stahl. The Keys of the Kingdom
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Some disc companies do well by refurbishing movies in the Public Domain, using various methods to bring what were once bargain-bin eyesores nearer the level of releases made from prime source material in studio vaults. As I've reported with efforts by HD Cinema Classics and Vci, the results vary dramatically -- did the company do a professional job,
By Raymond Benson
They must have done something right. Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) has proven to be a timeless and universal movie that keeps on giving, and the welcome new release from the Criterion Collection attests to it.
The premise of the film has been around for a while. Most of our generation know the remake better—Heaven Can Wait (1978, starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie)—which is a superb Oscar-nominated romantic comedy in its own right. Another remake in 2001, Down to Earth, starred Chris Rock.
But that’s not all. It wasn’t until I’d viewed the supplements on the new disk that I appreciated the fact that Mr. Jordan was indeed the first of several Hollywood pictures dealing with “heavenly” concepts—angels, the afterlife, and second chances. In a video discussion, critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker/distributor Michael Schlesinger reveal how the picture’s popularity actually began a trend of similar movies throughout the 1940s—A Guy Named Joe, Angel on My Shoulder, A Matter of Life and Death, It’s a Wonderful Life, and even Mr. Jordan’s direct sequel, Down to Earth (1947, not to be confused with the Chris Rock remake), which features both James Gleason and Edward Everett Horton again playing their roles from the first movie.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan was a major release and surprise hit from Columbia Pictures, a studio that always struggled to be one of the majors despite having director Frank Capra on their team in the ‘30s. Critically and popularly acclaimed, the picture successfully blends fantasy, romance, comedy, and intrigue, creating a delightful, and sometimes thought-provoking, piece of entertainment. It was nominated for Best Picture of 1941, Best Director (Alexander Hall), Best Actor (Robert Montgomery), Best Supporting Actor (James Gleason, and he steals the movie!), and Best B&W Cinematography. The film deservedly won the Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story, for Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller.
The story concerns Joe Pendleton (enthusiastically played by Montgomery in a stretch from his usual sophisticated tuxedo-clad characters) as a prizefighter with a heavy New Jersey accent who crashes in his private plane. His soul is saved by the Messenger (Horton), an angel whose job is to escort to Heaven the departing souls from his “territory.” In the mist-filled outskirts of Heaven, Mr. Jordan (benevolently portrayed by Claude Rains), a sort of St. Peter in a three-piece suit, checks in the new souls as they board another plane to take them to their afterlife homes. But Joe’s soul was accidentally taken before his body actually died—and therefore Mr. Jordan grants Joe a second chance. However, his consciousness must be placed into a recently deceased person—so Joe winds up inside a rich, corrupt banker’s body. Joe, in his new persona, sets about turning the banker’s life around for good, and he also attempts to continue his prizefighting. For the latter, he calls in his former manager, Corkle (Gleason) to train him. First, though, he’s got to convince Corkle that he’s really Joe inside the new man’s form. To complicate things, Joe falls in love with the daughter (Evelyn Keyes) of a man the banker destroyed financially and sent to prison. Joe also doesn’t know it yet, but he will have to jump bodies one more time before the story plays out.
The comedy and romance work like a charm, and the fantasy elements of Mr. Jordan are surprisingly effective. The movie is intelligently written and treats its subject matter with respect; and yet it has fun with the mechanics of death and the philosophical discourse of what we think the afterlife really is. The audience is tricked, in a way, into pleasantly enjoying a movie about death. What happens to Joe Pendleton at the end isn’t the norm for a romantic comedy. Technically it’s not a happy ending—and yet, it is. It’s a feel-good movie with a bittersweet center. This is a testament to the quality of writing in Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
The new 2K digital restoration looks fabulous. It has an uncompressed, monaural soundtrack. Along with the aforementioned video conversation about the film, the supplements include a long audio interview with Elizabeth Montgomery (daughter of Robert Montgomery, and, yes, the star of Bewitched) about her father and the movie; the Lux Radio Theatre radio adaptation starring Cary Grant (who was originally approached to star in the film—one can only imagine what it would have been like with Grant), Rains, Keyes, and Gleason; and a trailer. An essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme adorns the booklet.
A little gem from Hollywood released just prior to America’s entrance into World War II, Here Comes Mr. Jordan is a genuine classic, arguably superior to its many remakes and imitations. You will believe...
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Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Some movies are so entertaining that it's best to tell people,
The Emmy award-winning actor will star as "God" in Broadway's hit comedy An Act of God, a play written by David Javerbaum.
The Will and Grace star and his angels – played by David Josefsberg and James Gleason – will touch down on Earth for 90 precious minutes to answer some of mankind's deepest questions during the comedy directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello.
Hayes made his Broadway debut in 2010 when he starred in Promises, Promises alongside Kristin Chenoweth, Molly Shannon and Tony Goldwyn.
An Act of God officially open on Feb. 10 at the
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