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Heaven Can Wait

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Warren Beatty
Buck Henry
Produced by Warren Beatty
Written by Warren Beatty
Elaine May
Starring Warren Beatty
Julie Christie
James Mason
Jack Warden
Charles Grodin
Dyan Cannon
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography William A. Fraker
Editing by Robert C. Jones
Don Zimmerman
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) June 28, 1978
Running time 101 min.
Country United States
Language English

Heaven Can Wait is a 1978 comedy film directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry. The screenplay, by Beatty, Elaine May, and an uncredited Robert Towne, is adapted from the original stage play Heaven Can Wait by Harry Segall. The original music score was composed by Dave Grusin. Beatty also stars in the lead role, playing a football player who, after being killed in a collision accident, is sent back to earth in the body of a millionaire.

Heaven Can Wait is a remake of the 1941 film Here Comes Mr. Jordan, and should not be confused with the 1943 film of the same name. The 1978 film was subsequently remade in 2001 as Down to Earth, a film starring Chris Rock. Beatty had initially wanted Muhammed Ali to play the central character, but due to Ali's continued commitment to boxing, Beatty changed the character from a boxer to an American football player and played it himself.[1]. This film and its previous version inspired the TV series Quantum Leap, which ran successfully on NBC from March 1989 to May 1993.

Contents

Plot

Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), a backup quarterback for the American football team Los Angeles Rams, is looking forward to leading his team to the Super Bowl, when he is involved in a terrible collision with a truck. An over-anxious guardian angel on his first assignment (Buck Henry) plucks Joe out of his body early in the mistaken belief that his death is imminent, and Pendleton arrives in the afterlife.

Once there, he refuses to believe that his time was up, and upon investigation, the mysterious Mr. Jordan (James Mason) discovers that he is right; he was not destined to die until much later. Unfortunately, his body has already been cremated, so a new body must be found. After rejecting several possibilities (men who are about to die), Joe is finally persuaded to accept the body of millionaire Leo Farnsworth. Farnsworth has just been drugged and drowned in his bathtub by his wife Julia (Dyan Cannon) and her lover, Farnsworth's personal secretary Tony Abbott (Charles Grodin).

Julia and Tony are naturally confused when Farnsworth reappears, alive and well. Joe Farnsworth buys the Los Angeles Rams in order to lead them to the Super Bowl as their quarterback. In order to succeed, he must first convince, and then secure the aid of, long-time friend and trainer Max Corkle (Jack Warden) to get his new body into shape.

At the same time, he falls in love with an environmental justice activist, Betty Logan (Julie Christie), who disapproves of what the industrialist's company is doing. However, Julia and Abbott are not quite ready to give up on their murderous plans, and Abbott shoots Farnsworth dead. Joe then occupies another body, that of quarterback Thomas Jarrett, whose death is imminent. Joe leads the Rams to victory. During the team's post-game victory celebration, Mr. Jordan removes Joe's memory of his past life and departs. Joe becomes Thomas Jarrett and the cosmic balance is restored; yet Joe meets Betty again as she comes looking for him in the stadium, and the film ends with them getting close again.

Los Angeles Rams

A number of former Los Angeles Rams players have cameo roles in the film, among whom are Deacon Jones, Les Josephson, Jack Snow, Jim Boeke and Charley Cowan[2].

The year after the film's release, 'life imitated art' when the Rams made the Super Bowl and played the Pittsburgh Steelers, their fictional opponents in this film. (No Hollywood ending, however: in Super Bowl XIV, the Rams lost 31-19.)

Awards

The film won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Paul Sylbert, Edwin O'Donovan, George Gaines), and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Warren Beatty), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Warden), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Dyan Cannon), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Music, Original Score, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Elaine May and Warren Beatty).[3]

Cast

In addition to the former Rams football players mentioned above, some well-known sportscasters also appear, playing familiar roles. Bryant Gumble is seen in the background of one scene 'on the box', delivering a TV sportscast. Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis can be heard doing the Super Bowl play-by-play commentary. Dick Enberg conducts an abortive post-game interview of Joe Pendleton/Tom Jarrett.

References

External links

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