It's funny how over time elements of a movie fade from memory. So much so that most of the particulars are forgotten. When the movie is seen again years later, the film feels brand new and fresh rather than familiar. It's as though those elements were pulled out of the memory vault and not only dusted off put thoroughly cleaned and shined until sparkly.
Watching Ernst Lubitsch' Heaven Can Wait (1943) recently, after a few years hiatus from my last viewing, felt like I had watched the film for the first time. Out of all the 5 heaven movies I'm reviewing (see original list here), this is the only one that actually involves the concept of heaven (and hell) as a place one goes after death. Henry Van Cleeve (Don Ameche) is at the gates of hell, where he expects to be, and his life is being reviewed by Satan, who is reluctant to let him in. What proceeds is a visual journey through the life and times of bad boy Cleeve, from infancy to death. The most moving part of his story is his relationship with his wife Martha (Gene Tierney). He steals her away from his cousin and they elope on his 26th birthday. They continue on to have a passionate and tumultuous marriage that is based on their intense love for one another.
I have to say, this was probably the worst film for me to watch at this stage of my life, as opposed to when I first saw it a few years back. Mortality has been ever-present on my mind lately and the thought of what happens when I die looms around me like a pesky mosquito that won't leave me be. Basically, I'm not in the right place right now to enjoy this film without being depressed by it. Maybe a few years from now, I can watch this film again with a different outlook. I'll put back the elements of this film in my memory vault and leave them there for now.
While most people will look forward to seeing Gene Tierney and Don Ameche in this film, I most enjoyed most of the other actors in the cast. They delighted me immensely when their presence graced the screen for a few or for numerous scenes. Those include Louis Calhern as the doting and befuddled father of Henry, Charles Coburn as the mischevious grandfather of Henry, Dickie Moore as the teenage Henry, Marjorie Main as Martha's stubborn mother and Eugene Pallette as Martha's equally stubborn father. Such a great ensemble of superb actors!
I really hope the title sequence panels for this movie were sewn by hand. Because that would be so cool!