Here Comes Mr. Jordan
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Here Comes Mr. Jordan

This only natural to want to be able to do something over again, to correct mistakes were tried for a better outcome. It was simple when we were kids in Brooklyn playing stickball. If you missed the swing and the other team was amiable to it call for ‘a do over. Your request will be granted one simple reason, reciprocity, refusing your do over would mean there’s would be refused been the situation is reversed. There is one point in time that it would be very natural to want the ultimate do over, death. It is understandable that even if you live past hundred years of age is going to be something you would like to do differently, some decision you would like to start a different option was taken. Many movies have been made about a dead person being given some celestial second chance but, although not the first, it certainly ranks among the best, ‘Here Comes Mr. Jordan’.

Made in the middle of World War II, 1941, the idea of giving a man who died too early a second chance was an exceptionally appealing and quite comforting concept for the movie going audience back at home. The story and screenplay for this film both one Academy Awards with an additional five nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role. The source material was a relatively minor play written by Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller, who also adapted it to the screen. This is usually an ideal situation in the playwright is also a screenwriter as no one knows better how to alter the most crucial aspects of the story is being in the best position to maintain its emotional integrity. Individually they have extremely impressive resumes that included for Mr. Bachman, ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ and for Mr. Miller the iconic 1939 variation of the classic tale ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’. As for Mr. Hall he has directed an incredibly long list of movies most of which romances which included the best-known that stared Shirley Temple, ‘Little Miss Marker’. Those of us who enjoy the movies today going to the movies this is the way to pass the time and obtain a bit of escapism when these movies were made America was in the Great Depression, followed by World War II. In the escapism was far beyond anything we’ve ever experienced and it was filmmakers like these that maintain the positive morale among the population.

Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery, was an adventurous young man was a professional boxer and amateur pilot which led into the natural nickname of ‘The Flying Pug’. While flying his small plane to his next fight in New York City the craft losses control when a cable snaps. Joe dies in the fresh and is approached by heavenly Messenger 7013 (Edward Everett Horton). Although 7013 certain that Joe could not have survived the crash justifying and rescuing assault one ticket back to heaven he discovered that there has been a mistake made Joe was supposed to live in additional years. The first course of action would be to return Jordan’s body but unfortunately his manager Max "Pop" Corkle (James Gleason), had the body cremated. With no vessel to be reunited with his soul alternative arrangements had to be made. 7013 referred the matter up to his superior, Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains), who really confirms the situation. The only solution that Mr. Jordan has available is for Jo to have his soul placed in the corpse of a recently deceased man. Understandably Joe was a little upset with this idea Mr. Jordan reassures him that is just like putting on an overcoat, the real Joe will remain intact inside the body. Once you accept the idea Joe has one demand, the body has to be "in the pink" that is physically fit and capable of having him resume his boxing career. [This is an opportunity to return from the dead Joe is a bit particular about his new body. At the several rejections the next candidate is Bruce Farnsworth, exceptionally wealthy investment banker which is drowned in a bathtub after being drugged. Behind the plot was Bruce’s his wife Julia (Rita Johnson) and his secretary, Tony Abbott (John Emery). As if first-degree murder wasn’t sufficient to portray these characters is faultless and evil they are seen mocking young woman, Julia Logan (Evelyn Keyes), the daughter of a financier who was sold worthless bonds by Farnsworth's bank. At the scene that he has a chance to potentially help her Joe relents and accepts the body.

Joe plans to use his new identity as money to support his training getting them into the best fighting shape ever. Mr. Jordan intercedes telling Joe that although he is destined to become the champion he cannot do it in that way. A better suited body has become available in Joe has just enough time for a brief conversation with Julia. In this short period of time his become very close to her and he tells her that she is approached by somebody, particularly a boxer; she should give him a chance. Mr. Jordan and has a move on to his next body, the prizefighter named Murdoch. In life Joe has known him and had great respect for him as an honest boxer and all-around good person. Realizing that he forgotten his lucky saxophone Joe, now in the body of Murdoch, run back into the pond for a mansion to retrieve it. Everyone inside thinks that font growth had just disappeared in a private investigator is hired. Matter is turned over to the police to be investigated by Inspector Williams (Donald MacBride). Joe/Murdoch tries to explain what happened including details about Mr. Jordan and the body swapping which just convinces the detective that he is crazy.

This is very typical of a movie about time. The plot relies upon request situations that provide a perfect foundation for physical comedy as well as situational humor. It was not unusual for film about time to blend several different genres. We are used to niche programming with today’s entertainment paradigm almost unlimited sources of entertainment. When movies had to appeal to the largest possible audience the best way to ensure a decent box office was to provide a little bit or something for everyone. This movie had comedy, drama, mystery and a touch of the supernatural. Mostly the movie had heart. But every newspaper headline was filled with reports war, casualties and destruction. The people in the audience desperately needed something that would lift his spirits and allow them to hold onto a little bit of faith. This movie would undoubtedly be considered ‘sappy’ by today’s standard but on the other side of the coin, 1941 audience would be appalled by what goes for entertainment today. This will has been inducted into the Criterion Collection and given a high definition release. As always the film is impeccably restored with the care and honor it deserves and released with a collection of added material that will greatly enhance your understanding of the movie and appreciation of its lasting cinematic merits.

bulletNew 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
bulletNew conversation between critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker/distributor Michael Schlesinger
bulletAudio interview from 1991 in which actor Elizabeth Montgomery discusses her father, actor Robert Montgomery
bulletLux Radio Theatre adaptation of Here Comes Mr. Jordan from 1942 starring Cary Grant, Claude Rains, Evelyn Keyes, and James Gleason
bulletPLUS: An essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme

Posted 07/02/016

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