Heaven Can Wait Debuts On Blu-ray

Julie Christie and Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait. Courtesy of Paramount.

Warren Beatty’s 1978 Oscar-nominated classic film, Heaven Can Wait, makes its arrival on Blu-ray for the first time sans bonus features.

This is the second adaptation of Harry Segall’s 1938 play with the Oscar-winning Here Comes Mr. Jordan coming first in 1941. The 1941 film earned seven Oscars, winning two. A third adaptation, starring Chris Rock, was released in 2001 as Down to Earth.

In arriving on Blu-ray in 2021, the film had been restored and remastered from the original negative under Beatty’s supervision. While bonus features–even commentary from Beatty–would have been nice, there are none to be found on the disc. When this piece first went up in 2021, it was a standard home entertainment release piece. It wasn’t until February 2024 before finally getting around to rewatching the film for the first time in many years. Unfortunately, this is where I have issues with the disc itself. I don’t know if it is my LG 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player but I found issues with the sync starting at least 11 minutes into the film. This forced me to finish watching the film on Paramount+. Thankfully, the digital copy does not have this problem.

Los Angeles Rams backup quarterback Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) wants to lead the team to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, a rookie angel (Buck Henry) has other plans as Pendleton rides his bike through a tunnel. The angel thinks that Pendleton is meant to die in an accident but it won’t be his time until 2025. After meeting Mr. Jordon (James Mason), Pendleton learns that there is no way to go back to his body. They look at a few bodies and settle on millionaire industrialist Leo Farnsworth. The look on Tony Abbott (Charles Grodin) and Julia Farnsworth’s (Dyan Cannon) faces! Pendleton’s personality brings about several moments of humor. He brings changes to the company after meeting Betty Logan (Julie Christie). Furthermore, he also brings in Rams trainer Max Corkle (Jack Warden) to train him for an NFL tryout.

The fun part about Farnsworth being a multi-millionaire is that it gives Joe an opportunity to buy the Rams. It certainly provides an alternative with an NFL tryout being unlikely. Obviously, the Rams team is not quite on board with the idea at first, sacking Farnsworth at every opportunity with a scrimmage. But with Joe’s prior football background, they eventually come around. Sadly, Joe will not have an opportunity to lead the team in Farnsworth’s body. Farnsworth’s time is up but Mr. Jordan and the Escort have someone else in mind, teammate Tom Jarrett. This doesn’t happen until Joe has at least one more conversation with Betty.

Heaven Can Wait more is more or less the same as Here Comes Mr. Jordan. There are a few differences between the two. One, the sport changes from boxing to the NFL while Bruce Farnsworth is now Leo Farnsworth. But other than this, the plot is basically the same. Elaine May and Warren Beatty’s script certainly offers several moments for humor.

There’s a wealth of comedic talent behind the camera. Buck Henry and Elaine May join Beatty as co-director and co-writer, respectively. It is also no different with the talent in front of the camera either. A fantasy sports comedy probably would not earn many, if any, Oscar nominations today, However, this was not the case in 1978 with nine Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor in a Leading Role (Beatty), Supporting Actor (Jack Warden), Supporting Actress (Dyan Cannon), Art Direction, Cinematography, and Score. The only win would come for Art Direction. In any event, Beatty’s Oscar nominations put him in the same boat as Orson Welles.

Heaven Can Wait holds up as one of the best films of 1978 and remains a timeless classic.

DIRECTORS: Warren Beatty and Buck Henry
SCREENWRITERS: Elaine May and Warren Beatty
CAST: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, Buck Henry, Vincent Gardenia, and Jack Warden, Joseph Maher, Dolph Sweet, R.G. Armstrong, John Randolph, William Sylvester, Keene Curtis, Hamilton Camp, Jeannie Linero, Arthur Malet, Stephanie Faracy

Paramount released Heaven Can Wait in theaters on June 28, 1978. Grade: 5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.