Heaven Can Wait (1978 film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Heaven Can Wait is a 1978 American fantasy-comedy film co-directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry which opens with the central story line of Joe Pendleton (played by Beatty) being mistakenly taken to heaven by his guardian angel, and the resulting complications of how this mistake can be un-done (given that Joe Pendleton's body is no longer available) providing the basis of the film's plot. It was the second film adaptation of Harry Segall's play of the same name, being preceded by Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941).

The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards. The cast reunites Beatty with Julie Christie and Jack Warden, who also starred together in Shampoo (1975). Beatty and Christie had earlier occupied the lead roles in McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971).

In 2001, a third film adaptation of the play was done, titled Down to Earth, sharing its name with the sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941).

Plot

Joe Pendleton, a backup quarterback for the American football team Los Angeles Rams, is looking forward to leading his team to the Super Bowl. While riding his bicycle through the older west side of tunnel one on Kanan-Dume Road in Malibu, an over-anxious guardian angel (known only as The Escort) on his first assignment sees Joe heading into the tunnel, and a large truck heading into the other end of the tunnel towards Joe and his bicycle. The Escort plucks Joe out of his body early, in the mistaken belief that Joe was about to be killed. Pendleton immediately arrives in the afterlife.

Once there, he refuses to believe that his time was up and, upon investigation, the mysterious Mr. Jordan discovers that he is right: he was not destined to die until much later (10:17 am on March 20, 2025, to be exact). Unfortunately, his body has already been cremated, so a new body must be found for him. After rejecting several possibilities of men who are about to die, Joe is finally persuaded to accept the body of a millionaire industrialist. Leo Farnsworth has just been drugged and drowned in his bathtub by his cheating wife Julia Farnsworth and her lover, Farnsworth's personal secretary, Tony Abbott.

Julia and Tony are naturally confused when Leo reappears, alive and well. Leo's domestic staff are also confused by the changes in some of his habits and tastes. Still obsessed with his football destiny, Leo buys the Los Angeles Rams to lead them to the Super Bowl as their quarterback. To succeed, he must first convince, and then secure the help of, longtime friend and trainer Max Corkle to get his new body in shape. At the same time, he falls in love with an environmental activist, Betty Logan, whom he met when she showed up at his doorstep to protest the original Farnsworth's corporate policies.

With the Rams about to play in the Super Bowl, all the characters face a crisis. Mr. Jordan informs Farnsworth that he must give up this body as well. Farnsworth resists, but hints to Betty that she might someday meet someone else and should think of him. Julia and Abbott continue their murderous plans, and Abbott shoots Farnsworth dead. The Rams are forced to start another quarterback, Tom Jarrett, in the climactic game. A detective, Lieutenant Krim, interrogates the suspects while they watch the game on television. With the help of Corkle, he gets Julia and Abbott to incriminate each other.

After a brutal hit on the field, Jarrett is himself killed. With Mr. Jordan's help, Joe then occupies his final body. He is shown snapping to life in Jarrett's body, then leading the Rams to victory. During the team's post-game celebration, Mr. Jordan seemingly removes Joe's memory of his past life and departs. Joe becomes Tom Jarrett and the cosmic balance is restored. The one left crestfallen is Corkle, who realizes that, as Jarrett is living without any memory of being "Joe," it's really the death of Joe in a way. Jarrett bumps into Betty while leaving the stadium. They strike up a conversation, and Betty appears to recognize something of Joe in this stranger, Jarrett. This echoes earlier in the film, when Joe had asked Betty to watch for and recognize something/someone in a stranger she might meet one day, implying something of Joe still exists even without his memory.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Heaven Can Wait (1978 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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