Ernst Lubitsch

Heaven Can Wait

Heaven Can Wait

Deceased playboy Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) presents himself to the outer offices of Hades, where he asks a bemused Satan for permission to enter through the gates of hell. Though the devil doubts that Henry’s sins qualify him for eternal damnation, Henry proceeds to recount a lifetime of wooing and pursuing women, his long, happy marriage to Martha (Gene Tierney) notwithstanding. Ernst Lubitsch’s Heaven Can Wait, nominated for Academy Awards for best picture and director, is an enduring classic that showcases the filmmaker’s trademark blend of wit, urbanity, and grace.

Film Info

  • Ernst Lubitsch
  • United States
  • 1943
  • 112 minutes
  • Color
  • 1.37:1
  • English
  • Spine #291

Special Features

  • New 4K digital restoration by Twentieth Century Fox and the Academy Film Archive in collaboration with The Film Foundation, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack (Blu-ray); restored high-definition digital transfer (DVD)
  • Conversation from 2005 between film critics Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris
  • Episode from 1982 of Creativity with Bill Moyers exploring screenwriter Samson Raphaelson’s life and career
  • Audio seminar with Raphaelson and film critic Richard Corliss recorded at the Museum of Modern Art in 1977
  • Home recordings of director Ernst Lubitsch playing the piano
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar William Paul

Cover by Caitlin Kuhwald

Purchase Options

Coming soon, available Aug 21, 2018

Special Features

  • New 4K digital restoration by Twentieth Century Fox and the Academy Film Archive in collaboration with The Film Foundation, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack (Blu-ray); restored high-definition digital transfer (DVD)
  • Conversation from 2005 between film critics Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris
  • Episode from 1982 of Creativity with Bill Moyers exploring screenwriter Samson Raphaelson’s life and career
  • Audio seminar with Raphaelson and film critic Richard Corliss recorded at the Museum of Modern Art in 1977
  • Home recordings of director Ernst Lubitsch playing the piano
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar William Paul

Cover by Caitlin Kuhwald

Heaven Can Wait
Cast
Don Ameche
Henry Van Cleve
Gene Tierney
Martha
Charles Coburn
Hugo Van Cleve
Marjorie Main
Mrs. Strable
Laird Cregar
His Excellency
Spring Byington
Bertha Van Cleve
Allyn Joslyn
Albert Van Cleve
Eugene Pallette
E. F. Strable
Signe Hasso
Mademoiselle
Louis Calhern
Rudolph Van Cleve
Helene Reynolds
Peggy Nash
Aubrey Mather
James
Michael Ames
Jack Van Cleve
Credits
Director
Ernst Lubitsch
Produced by
Ernst Lubitsch
Screenplay
Samson Raphaelson
Based upon the play Birthday by
Lazlo Bus-Fekete
Director of photography
Edward Cronjager
Technicolor director
Natalie Kalmus
Music by
Alfred Newman
Editor
Dorothy Spencer
Art direction
James Basevi
Art direction
Leland Fuller
Set decorations
Thomas Little
Set decorations
Walter M. Scott
Costumes
René Hubert

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Heaven Can Wait

By William Paul

On Film / Essays — Jun 13, 2005

Explore

Ernst Lubitsch

Director

It’s difficult to put into words exactly what is meant by “the Lubitsch touch.” It alludes to the director’s delicate hand, effervescent humor, and economy with words and images. The ineffable style the term attempts to capture was with Lubitsch from his cinematic beginnings in Berlin to his early days in the American studio system and his final years as a Hollywood stalwart. Born January 28, 1892, in Berlin, this clothing manufacturer’s son left the family firm for a life in show business. After starting out as a performer in Max Reinhardt’s fabled theater company, Lubitsch went on to star in silent slapsticks for Berlin’s Bioscop film studio (he became well-known as the comic character Meyer), eventually writing and directing his own movies and becoming part of the legendary UFA studio. The international success of some of those films, such as Carmen (1918) and Madame du Barry (1919), led American film superstar Mary Pickford to invite him to Hollywood. On the basis of movies like The Marriage Circle (1924) and Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925), Lubitsch earned a reputation in America as a hit-maker, and unlike many of his peers, he took to the transition to sound like a duck to water, pioneering the narrative movie musical with such Maurice Chevalier vehicles as The Love Parade (1929) and The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), in which he indulged his fondness for Viennese operettas. An adept of sparkling dialogue and naughty innuendo, Lubitsch flourished particularly in the pre-Hays-code Hollywood era—his continental romantic comedies and fanciful period pieces were flush with sexual repartee; such glittering confections as Trouble in Paradise (1932), Design for Living (1933), and The Merry Widow (1934) were perfect escapes for the beleaguered audiences of the Great Depression. So great was Lubitsch’s success that in 1935 he was named head of production at Paramount, though he held that position for only one year. He would continue to craft more studio smashes, however, for MGM and 20th Century-Fox, many of which are still beloved today, including Ninotchka (1939), To Be or Not to Be (1942), and Heaven Can Wait (1943). Early in 1947, shortly before his death from a heart attack, Lubitsch was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar, recognizing his “twenty-five-year contribution to motion pictures.”