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Heaven Can Wait

Angel on my Shoulder title card

Year - 1943
Studio - Twentieth Century Fox
Stars - Don Ameche, Gene Tierney, Charles Coburn, Marjorie Main, Spring Byington, Signe Hasso
Director - Ernst Lubitsch
Writing Credits - Samson Raphaelson (screenplay), Lazlo Bush-Fekete (play)
Music - Alfred Newman


Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) presents himself to the entrance to Hell, and tells "His Excellency" (Laird Cregar) that he accepts that he has not been a good person in life and is ready to go "below".

Satan is not convinced that Henry is a candidate for Hell, and asks to hear his story. Henry relates the story of his life, from birth to death.

His parents, Randolph and Bertha Van Cleve (Louis Calhern and Spring Byington), are wealthy New Yorkers, and are concerned about Henry's irresponsibility and frivolous attitude, but his grandfather, Hugo Van Cleve (Charles Coburn) admires his individuality.

Heaven Can Wait poster

Henry meets the love of his life, Martha Strable (Gene Tierney), at a party celebrating her engagement to his conventional and straight-laced cousin, Albert (Allyn Joslyn), and they elope to be married. They are much in love, but Martha leaves after ten years of marriage because of his implied infidelities. Henry and grandpa Hugo go to the home of her parents (Eugene Pallette and Marjorie Main) in Kansas, where Henry convinces her to return.

They raise their son, Jack (Tod Andrews) who has the same qualities and attitude as his father. Martha precedes Henry in death.

Having heard Henry's life story, Satan tells Henry that he is not a qualified candidate, and calls an elevator. The elevator operator asks "Down?" and Satan tells him, "No....Up".


The only fantasy aspect of Heaven Can Wait is in the framing story in Hell. The title has no connection with the 1978 Heaven Can Wait, which was a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan.