The Long And The Short (Series) Of It on… Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) and Down To Earth (1947)

It’s been almost two years since I had a post on a movie series, but I’ve finally gotten back around to doing one, with this specific column newly rechristened “The Long And The Short (Series) Of It!” This time around, I’m talking about the two film series that includes the 1941 Here Comes Mr. Jordan and the 1947 Down To Earth!

Here Comes Mr. Jordan: On his way to his next boxing match, Joe Pendleton’s (Robert Montgomery) plane goes down. However, right before it crashes, Joe’s spirit is pulled out by the angelic Messenger 7013 (Edward Everett Horton). This turns out to be a mistake, as 7013’s superior, Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains) says that Joe was actually supposed to survive the crash and live for another fifty years. To make things worse, when Joe and 7013 return to find his body, they discover that Joe’s manager, Max Corkle (James Gleason), had already cremated the body.  So, to rectify that mistake, Mr. Jordan tries to help Joe find a new body to live in, to Joe’s satisfaction.  They end up using the body of millionaire playboy Bruce Farnsworth, who had just been murdered by his wife and her lover. Joe was reluctant to use that body, except he wanted to help Bette Logan (Evelyn Keyes), who had come to see Farnsworth about getting her father out of jail. Joe manages to do just that, all the while falling in love with her. He still wants to fight in the championship match, so he starts working out and reveals himself to his former manager, Max. Of course, Farnsworth’s wife and her lover have other ideas, especially as he spends a lot of their money.

Down To Earth: Playwright and actor Danny Miller (Larry Parks) has put together a show about the Greek muses. However, unbeknownst to him, the actual Greek muses hear about, and object to how they are portrayed! In particular, Terpsichore (Rita Hayworth) is angered by this development, and decides to do something about. Unable to go to Earth on her own, she goes to Mr. Jordan (Roland Culver), and convinces him to let her come to Earth to “help” Danny. He agrees to the idea, and sends her to Earth, with Messenger 7013 (Edward Everett Horton) along to keep an eye on her. She successfully auditions for Danny under the name Kitty Pendleton, and is given the lead role of Terpsichore. She enlists Max Corkle (James Gleason) to be her agent, and starts preparing for the show. Danny is enchanted by her, but the two keep coming to odds about how the muses are portrayed (particularly Terpsichore). After some time, Terpsichore convinces Danny to make some changes, much to the annoyance of Danny’s friend and co-star, Eddie (Marc Platt). When the show premieres out of town (with all the changes that Terpsichore made), it is poorly received, forcing Danny to go back to his original concept. At first, Terpsichore is infuriated and threatens to walk out, until Mr. Jordan shows her how Danny had indebted himself to gangster Joe Mannion (George MacReady), which would require the show to be a hit, or Danny would be killed. With this new information, she comes back to the show, ready to do things Danny’s way. But, will the show be a hit, or will Danny be murdered?

Now, given that, unlike the two earliest posts in this series (pun intended), where I essentially reviewed the films themselves (instead of giving them individual posts), I’ve already reviewed one of these movies individually a while back (and just did the other one), so I’ll keep my comments here confined to the series as a whole. Here Comes Mr. Jordan was based on the play Heaven Can Wait by Harry Segall. The movie was produced at Columbia Pictures, although it was considered a risky venture for the “Poverty Row” studio. However, Harry Cohn was convinced to do it, and the movie ended up being a hit for them, along with receiving several Oscar nominations. A sequel was planned, with the working title Hell Bent For Mr. Jordan, but it never happened (mainly because the hope was to bring back the original cast of Robert Montgomery, Claude Rains, Edward Everett Horton and James Gleason, which never quite worked out). However, when actress Rita Hayworth and then-rising newcomer Larry Parks were paired together for Down To Earth, it was decided to make that film a sequel of sorts to Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Edward Everett Horton (Messenger 7013) and James Gleason (Max Corkle) were brought back to play their respective characters, although Max Corkle’s occupation was changed from fight manager to theatrical agent (with references to his previous profession). Claude Rains didn’t come back to portray Mr. Jordan (for reasons I have yet to discover), so Roland Culver took over that role (with his appearance a strong reminder of the previous portrayal). Director Alexander Hall was also retained for both movies.

Both films managed to make an impact, but Here Comes Mr. Jordan made the biggest. As a result of its success, Hollywood made more films of that type, such as I Married An Angel (1942), Angel On My Shoulder (1946), Angels In The Outfield (1951) and Heaven Can Wait (1943) (no relation to the play other than the title). The movie would be remade (under the play’s original title of Heaven Can Wait) in 1978, and again in 2001 as Down To Earth (apparently borrowing the title of the sequel). While the 1947 Down To Earth didn’t have *quite* that impact, it was rather infamously remade… as the 1980 movie musical Xanadu.

As I mentioned when I originally reviewed Here Comes Mr. Jordan, I more or less discovered that film because of Bob Hope’s reference to it in Road To Morocco. I thoroughly enjoyed Here Comes Mr. Jordan when I saw it, particularly because the cast did such a great job. Of course, in the humor department, Edward Everett Horton and especially James Gleason left me cracking up at their antics, leaving me wanting more! Having finally had the chance to see Down To Earth a few years later (with them reprising their roles), that fun continued on! While it wasn’t the full-fledged sequel that was originally planned, it still worked quite well! James Gleason starts us off being interrogated by the police (again) in a manner quite reminiscent of what it was like in the first film (before he tells us what happened in flashback). Comparatively, I prefer Claude Rains over Roland Culver in the role of Mr. Jordan, as I feel he better fit the role, with all the gravitas it required. That being said, Roland Culver certainly wasn’t too far from it, either (and was pretty good casting since they did have to replace Claude Rains, for whatever reason). I prefer the first film overall, as the second does have its slightly weaker moments (including, to my mind, the inclusion of the Greek muses/”goddesses,” although that’s a minor complaint), but as an overall series, I can’t complain! Here Comes Mr. Jordan is an almost perfect film, and, as such, I really have little to no interest in seeing the later remakes. I have seen Down To Earth‘s remake (Xanadu), and, while it’s certainly not in the same league as Down To Earth by far, it at least had the appeal of a few cast members that I like (as opposed to Jordan‘s remakes). I would definitely recommend either of the two films from this series without any hesitation!

Both movies are available on Blu-ray (Here Comes Mr. Jordan from Criterion as an individual release and Down To Earth as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment).

Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Down To Earth

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.