Heaven Can Wait (1978) – Warren Beatty & Buck Henry

The next big title in the highly informative and entertaining The Movie Book from DK Canada is the superior film, A Matter of Life and Death from 1946. Having previously reviewed it, I moved right onto the What Else to Watch list and dove into the one film on there I hadn’t previously covered, the Warren Beatty vehicle, Heaven Can Wait.

Based on a stage play by Harry Segall and adapted by Beatty and Elaine May, the story follows a quarterback, Joe Pendelton (Beatty) who is involved in an accident and brought to heaven by an angel, referred to as The Escort (Buck Henry), before he is actually due to die.

With Mr. Jordan (James Mason) at his side, they try to seek out a body for him to claim. He needs one that is recently deceased, so the pair run through their options, and when Joe lays eyes on Betty Logan (Julie Christie) he’s found his new body, a millionaire named Farnsworth, who has been murdered by his executive secretary, Tony (Charles Grodin) and his wife, Julia (Dyan Cannon).

Joe finds himself caught up in schemes to see him murdered, falling in love with Betty even as he tries to help her. All he wants to do is play in the Super Bowl, but he finds himself immersed in business schemes, conniving family members, and eccentricities of the rich.

Jack Warden turns in a fun performance as Joe’s coach, Max Corkle who becomes convinced that Farnsworth is Joe.


But what happens when one of the murder attempts succeeds before they get to the Super Bowl? Just after he proposes to Betty!

The film is fanciful, fun, and embraces it’s romantic and goofy aspects which is when the ending happens, it plays more poignantly than one would expect, and in fact Beatty is extremely likeable in the film.

Julie Christie isn’t given enough to do which is unfortunate, and anytime Grodin and Cannon are in films during the late 70s things aren’t going to be completely serious, and they aren’t going to be incredibly involving, and in fact things will no doubt lean towards the goofy, which in this case they do.

And Joe’s character arc isn’t huge, all he wants to do is play in the Super Bowl, and he’s an honest and good person, so he shakes up the millionaire’s life a little, but on the whole not a lot happens for the character.

That being said, it’s an enjoyable, fanciful film that lets Beatty shine.

Don’t believe me, pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book and check out something classic.

Heaven Can Wait (1978)


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