Heaven Can Wait

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
With Don Ameche, Gene Tierney, Charles Coburn.
US, 1943, DCP, color, 112 min.
DCP source: 20th Century Fox

Lubitsch’s one foray into Technicolor was this wistful picaresque about the life of Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche), a charming rake from the New York aristocracy. Playfully framed by Henry’s trip to a purgatorial waiting room, where a dapper Satan allows his potential tenant a chance to be redeemed, Heaven Can Wait unfolds as one sustained after-death remembrance. In doing so, it approximates the texture of memory, with Lubitsch lingering on momentous events, like young Henry’s impromptu marriage to Martha Strabel (Gene Tierney), and delicately eliding the more painful memories, as in a late ellipsis implying a major character’s death that counts among the director’s most poignant sleights of hand. Pensive as the film may be in its totality, however, it is wonderfully light and bawdy in the moment, with terrific supporting turns by Charles Coburn and Eugene Pallette as temperamental patriarchs, a teasing script that nods to Henry’s never-waning desire without needing to depict his erotic escapades, and a formidable show of the new color technology, which puts a festive shimmer on Lubitsch’s characteristically extravagant sets.

Part of program

Read more

That Certain Feeling... The Touch of Ernst Lubitsch

Current and upcoming programs

Read more

Devour the Land: Cinema, landscape, history.