Movies get remade because the big studios are scared of new ideas and will do anything to cash in on familiar properties. Movies get remade because technological advances mean they can remake a movie bigger, louder and dumber than ever. Movies rarely get remade for the one reason that they should be remade; Ie. The Original wasted a great idea. Well, as rare as they are, I found one with Here Comes Mr Jordan.
In the beautiful countryside, two men try to beat each other’s brains out as Joe Pendelton (Robert Montgomery) trains to become the next heavy weight champ. When his coach tells him they’re heading to New York for the final stages of preparation for the big fight, Joe decides to fly his own small plane, instead of catching the train with everyone else. His coach objects, but with his lucky saxophone in hand, Joe is sure nothing can go wrong. But once in the air, something goes wrong and Joe’s plane plummets to the earth. Cut to Joe in heaven, where he learns that he wasn’t actually supposed to die in the crash. Instead, an over eager angel took his soul before the impact to save him some pain. Now, it’s up to heaven administrator Mr Jordan (Claud Rains) to finds a new body for Joe to inhabit.
Joe is determined to still take his shot at the title, so not just any body will do. After rejecting dozens for not being fit enough, Mr Jordan eventually convinces Joe to take the form of millionaire banker, Bruce Fansworth. Poisoned by his cheating wife (Rita Johnson) and secretary (John Emery), Fansworth’s body hasn’t been discovered yet, meaning it’s ripe for Joe’s soul. Once in his new form, Joe/Fansworth has to contend with his would-be killers, Fansworth’s own crooked past, and a love interest in the form of Bette Logan (Evelyn Keys), a victim of said crooked past.
Based on that synopsis, you’d have to assume that Joe is the main character. But based on the title, it would be easy to think Mr Jordan is the centre of this movie. And strangely enough, Claud Rains as Mr Jordan does get a lot of the spotlight. Which is weird, and one of the things that keeps Here Comes Mr Jordan from being a great movie. Rains is awesome, but this isn’t his character’s story. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. So when Joe Pendelton and his story keep taking a backseat, the movie loses all momentum.
Remade 40 odd years later as Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty, that version works better for several reasons. For one, it put Beatty’s character at the center of absolutely everything. It also has a lot more fun with the concept and plays it all a lot lighter. And really, with a silly, high concept like this, fun and light is the way to go.