291 Heaven Can Wait

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Jun-Dai
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291 Heaven Can Wait

#1 Post by Jun-Dai » Thu Mar 31, 2005 3:07 pm

Heaven Can Wait

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Deceased turn-of-the-century playboy Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) presents himself to the outer offices of Hades, where he asks a bemused Satan for permission to enter through the gates of hell. Though the devil doubts that Henry's sins qualify him for eternal damnation, Henry proceeds to recount a lifetime of wooing and pursuing women, his long, happy marriage to Martha (Gene Tierney) notwithstanding. Ernst Lubitsch's Heaven Can Wait, nominated for Academy Awards for best picture and director, is an enduring classic that showcases his trademark blend of wit, urbanity, and grace.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• New 4K digital restoration by Twentieth Century Fox and the Academy Film Archive in collaboration with The Film Foundation, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack (Blu-ray); restored high-definition digital transfer (DVD)
• Conversation from 2005 between film critics Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris
Creativity with Bill Moyers: A Portrait of Samson Raphaelson (1982), a thirty-minute program exploring the screenwriter's life and career
• Audio seminar with Raphaelson and film critic Richard Corliss recorded at the Museum of Modern Art in 1977
• Home recordings of director Ernst Lubitsch playing the piano
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by film scholar William Paul

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Last edited by Jun-Dai on Thu Mar 31, 2005 4:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Tribe
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#2 Post by Tribe » Thu Mar 31, 2005 3:17 pm

Jun-Dai wrote:I have a feeling this will make some people around here quite happy.
Excellent news! Can't have too much classic Hollywood stuff in the CC, and Lubitsch, with all that double entendre, is just so much fun. Great choice (even if the cover is silly!).

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#3 Post by justeleblanc » Thu Mar 31, 2005 3:22 pm

Now lets see if my prof was telling the truth about doing the commentary.

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#4 Post by justeleblanc » Thu Mar 31, 2005 4:13 pm

The site's up, and it looks like my Prof gets an essay instead of commentary. Still, it looks like the disc has some great features

Lubitsch home piano recordings

Neat!

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#5 Post by Martha » Thu Mar 31, 2005 4:22 pm

I've chosen to assume that the "more!" means the Warren Beatty version will be an extra.

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#6 Post by Tribe » Thu Mar 31, 2005 4:25 pm

Martha, I think that's the whiskey talkin'!

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#7 Post by alandau » Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:15 pm

Thanks Criterion! This is pure Lubitsch magic, made even more memorable by the ethereal Gene Tierney who looks ravishing in glorious Technicolor. And no-one makes a better devil than Laird Cregar.

Let's hope we get Cluny Brown - another Fox Lubitsch.

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#8 Post by Sai » Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:47 pm

Normally I wouldn't buy movies like this blind. Fourties and fifties Hollywood drama isn't really up my alley, but hey, I'd buy Bad Boys 2 if Gene Tierney was in it. So, eh...

What was I talking about again?

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#9 Post by cdnchris » Thu Mar 31, 2005 9:39 pm

I'll be buying this one blind. I think the plotline sounds quite charming and Trouble in Paradise is one of my favourites in the collection (which I just watched again), so if this is even half near as good, I have no problem getting it sight unseen. I just hope it stays in the $30 range.

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#10 Post by justeleblanc » Fri Apr 01, 2005 2:07 am

I'm surprised so many people are having to blind buy this, it was actually one of the first few lubitsch films i could rent. it's his middle period between TROUBLE IN PARADISE and LOVE PARADE that is pretty much impossible to find, unless you have a laserdisc.

It's been a while since I've seen this, but this seems to be a very personal film of his, focusing on the Don Juan Lubitsch always wanted to be and the punishment for that.

By the way, is it really true that Lubitsch had a heart attack while having sex. Can we confirm that?

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#11 Post by Cinephrenic » Fri Apr 01, 2005 2:11 am

It was before the FDA approved Viagra.

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#12 Post by Harold Gervais » Fri Apr 01, 2005 4:33 am

To say I've been eagerly awaiting this disc's arrival is a serious understatement. Outstanding news. Hopefully word of Unfaithfully Yours will occur sometime soon.

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#13 Post by Derek Estes » Fri Apr 01, 2005 4:45 am

I just happened to watch this film a few weeks ago, and loved it! What luck that i will be able to own it soon. I actually noticed a few similarities to The Life and Death of Col. Blimp -another film I adore- and Heaven Can Wait, I don't want to say too much and spoil it for those new to this film. But I think in some respects, what Blimp is to a British Officer Heaven is to an American Playboy. I also found similarities to the use of Gene Tierney and Deborah Kerr in each film.

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#14 Post by Jaime_Weinman » Sat Apr 02, 2005 4:57 pm

Like many of Lubitsch's films, Heaven Can Wait was loosely based on a European stage play, in this case a Hungarian play called Birthdays (which is why most of the scenes take place on Henry's birthday). Here Comes Mr. Jordan was based on a play called Heaven Can Wait, which is why Beatty used that title for the remake.

Here's something I'm wondering about Heaven Can Wait (I kind of like the cover art, BTW):

In every print of the film I've seen -- including a restored 35 mm print at a Lubitsch retrospective in Montreal, which finally did justice to that gorgeous Fox Technicolor -- it ends the way it ends on the VHS version; that is also the way it ends in the script as published in the book of Samson Raphaelson screenplays.

But in at least a couple of reviews, I've seen it mentioned that there's supposed to be another scene after this. This review is one such; it says: "Henry is directed to take an elevator leading to heaven. However, on the way up he spies an attractive blonde travelling in the opposite direction, and decides there and then that 'heaven can wait'... "

What I'm wondering is whether this scene actually exists, or used to exist, and whether it'll be included (or if it doesn't exist, referred to) on the DVD. I find it odd because while the published script has a number of bits that aren't in the movie -- some of which probably had to be cut for Hayes-Office-related reasons -- it has nothing about that scene.

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#15 Post by Toshiro De Niro » Mon Apr 04, 2005 3:28 am

"Hostage" is a new movie about obsessed collectors trying to get an early copy of criterion's Heaven Can Wait. It has a slightly different cover, but who knows, maybe the one on the criterion's website is not the final version :)

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#16 Post by justeleblanc » Wed Apr 13, 2005 1:18 pm

Are you serious? I thought that was a joke then I was talking to my friend about the new DVD release and he said the exact same thing to me. Now, I have to see "Hostage" -- does anyone else find this to be incredibly random?

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#17 Post by jorencain » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:49 pm

Here's what I found about part of the plot online:
"Smith turns out to be an accountant for a criminal group that is desperate to prevent a DVD containing incriminating information from falling into police hands. To ensure Talley's cooperation, that gang kidnaps Talley's wife and daughter (Serena Scott Thomas and real-life progeny Rumer Willis), threatening to kill them if the chief doesn't get them the DVD, secreted in Smith's house in the box for Ernst Lubitsch's "Heaven Can Wait.""

So, it's not quite so integral to the plot, it seems, and I couldn't find anything relating to the Criterion version.

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#18 Post by What A Disgrace » Thu May 19, 2005 8:29 pm

On HVE's website, the "more!" has disappeared from the supplements list, with no new features added.

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#19 Post by Jaime_Weinman » Sat Jun 04, 2005 9:27 pm

There's also a stills gallery of publicity materials and the original pressbook; I guess that was the "more!".

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#20 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Mon Jun 06, 2005 7:15 pm

Has anyone seen/heard anything about a different front cover? Maybe this is has a slipcase or something? Reason I ask is that the Seattle Public Library listing for this DVD has a different cover image up, and its more than a little nice.

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#21 Post by Jaime_Weinman » Mon Jun 06, 2005 7:48 pm

That's the cover of the VHS version.

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#22 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Mon Jun 06, 2005 8:00 pm

Jaime_Weinman wrote:That's the cover of the VHS version.
Ah, thank you for the clarification.

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#23 Post by Jaime_Weinman » Tue Jun 14, 2005 11:53 pm

I haven't seen the DVD, as it doesn't come out in Canada until next week, but:

The thing about Heaven Can Wait is that it can leave audiences wondering what the point of it was. And I think, based on some of the reviews of the DVD, that people are still split over this. Henry Van Cleve is basically a man who lives a pointless life and has everything handed to him; the only serious crisis in his life, when Martha leaves him, is solved without his having to change his ways or do much of anything except just be the endlessly forgivable man-child he is. Don Ameche himself said that Henry is a selfish man who led a totally selfish life, and that the movie is about the idea that a totally selfish man could still be worthy of getting into heaven.

The movie doesn't really try to "redeem" him to get him into heaven, the way another movie on a similar subject might do. He lives his life pretty consistently for himself, stops philandering only when he's too old and chubby to attract young women, and dies thinking about women and liquor. The movie doesn't ask us to see him as a man who converts or has an epiphany; it asks us to see his life as a basically good life even though it was basically useless. That can be difficult to swallow, because we do tend to expect selfish characters to redeem themselves somehow at some specific moment, instead of being celebrated.

Now, of course, the movie shows that even though Henry mostly thinks of himself, he brings pleasure to others: his grandfather, Martha (who has more fun with wandering Henry than she ever could have had with faithful Albert), "several young ladies," even Satan, who enjoys listening to Henry's exploits. (Henry's jealousy of Martha in their last scene together is an example of this: it's outrageously hypocritical of Henry to be acting the jealous husband with Martha, but it does make her happy to know that he still finds her attractive enough to be jealous of her.) Whereas the characters who are conventionally moral, like Albert and Mr. Van Cleve, never bring much pleasure to anyone, including themselves. You could argue that Heaven Can Wait is Lubitsch's Sullivan's Travels, his self-defence for making comedies (and particularly for making comedies in a time when, as Satan says, "The whole world is coming to hell"): bringing pleasure is its own justification and ultimately helps more people than conventionally worthy goals.

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#24 Post by Andre Jurieu » Wed Jun 15, 2005 12:03 am

That might just be the most interesting post I've read in quite some time. It probably helps that you compared it to Sullivan's Travels. Since I haven't seen it since I was 10 or 11, I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of this DVD.

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#25 Post by Steven H » Wed Jun 15, 2005 1:58 am

Jaime_Weinman wrote:Don Ameche himself said that Henry is a selfish man who led a totally selfish life, and that the movie is about the idea that a totally selfish man could still be worthy of getting into heaven.
That's fantastic stuff. I wonder if a similar sentiment is reached in his To Be or Not To Be, when Benny seems to undermine the entire rebellion and anti-war ideals by revealing that he really just wants to "play Hamlet." I think you could easily read the film as being about the *freedom* won which makes it possible to play Hamlet, but I wonder if Lubitsch didn't have other aims. Having such a narcissistic bastard like Benny's Tura "The Greatest Polish actor to ever grace the stage!" save the day is a statement alone.

Looking forward to Heaven Can Wait though.

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