Nov. 13, 2005
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
Grade: 52/100

Director: Alexander Hall
Stars: Robert Montgomery, Claude Rains, Edward Everett Horton

What it's about. Boxer Robert Montgomery is sent to Heaven too early, and it is up to ghostly intermediaries Claude Rains and Edward Everett Horton to return him to his rightful place on Earth. Since this is a movie, the plot also involves Montgomery winning the heart of pretty goody two shoes Evelyn Keyes.

How others will see it. More viewers are familiar with the remake, Heaven Can Wait. The story is about the same, although perhaps more complex: Montgomery is in three different bodies rather than two. Eyes may roll at how everything works out perfectly. The only ones who go unpunished are those with the temerity to shoot a boxer during a title fight.

How I felt about it. I'm glad that Montgomery plays the saxophone poorly. It's a nice touch. I'm not so sure about his character. While his body may be "in the pink," his character is remarkably stupid. Rains discusses Farnsworth drowned in the bathtub, closing dryly with, "It's all over, Joe." Montgomery pauses, and asks, "You mean he's dead?" Duh.

Montgomery also sometimes panders in his efforts to win over the audience. This is especially obvious in his painful dialogue to woo Keyes, prattling on about the light in her eyes, and man's immortal soul, in his Rocky dumb-guy speak. Keyes demonstrates the immortality of her love by identifying Montgomery in his new body. Yet on his side, the attraction is definitely physical. He tells Rains, "I've never seen anything as beautiful as that, not even in heaven."

The story has its problems too. Montgomery is apparently cremated within a day of hs death. He is able to occupy rich guy Farnsworth when he is killed the first time, but not when he is murdered again. Once he assumes the body of Murdoch, the boxing match becomes a cartoon. Up at the count of nine, and a knockout of the opponent one minute later. He then hires Corkle (James Gleason) to be his manager, despite Corkle's immediately preceding bizzare behavior.

Despite the silly catering to Hollywood storytelling, Here Comes Mr. Jordan has its moments. Gleason is almost funny at times as Montgomery's boxing manager, who gets caught up in his former employer's wild back to life fish story. Rains is also capable in his patient, fatherly handling of his dumb but determined charge. Edward Everett Horton is again stereotyped as an inept, fussy comic foil. Farnsworth's butler (Halliwell Hobbes) has successful moments putting up with the impossible whims of Montgomery's impersonation of Farnsworth.

Look fast to see Lloyd Bridges in an early bit role, playing a heavenly ham operator. It's unfortunate that one has to work, even in the afterlife, but I guess it's much better than merely being dead.