For Reel

Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
April 17, 2016, 3:57 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alexander Hall
4 Stars
Here Comes Mr. JordanIf Heaven Can Wait and A Matter of Life and Death are the two seminal existential dramas set in the afterlife, Here Comes Mr. Jordan is their charming, too readily dismissed predecessor. Robert Montgomery plays an obnoxious prizefighter who is presumptuously extracted from the scene of his death by a heavenly messenger (Edward Everett Horton). In order to “make good” for the afterlife’s clerical error, the eponymous Mr. Jordan (Claude Raines) offers the boxer his choice of newly-deceased bodies to live out the rest of his life in. That some body-hopping occurs due to the pesky fact that good, honest people can’t seem to keep themselves from being murdered shades the film with an undercurrent of menace—while the picture is rightly discussed as a comedy, it is one in which the genre’s interplay with tragedy is its defining trait. Montgomery’s character is severed from his old life and thrust into a world he has no place in, evoking both the noirs of the period and the post-war home-front dramas to come. His very ambivalence towards the suggestion of “trading” his life for another culminates in the erasure of his past, playing out with an uncommon poignancy in the final act. While Montgomery was far from the most dynamic performer of his day, Here Comes Mr. Jordan is extraordinarily generous in its character moments, with each of the supporting players (including James Gleason in a memorable role as a promoter) given an affecting send-off by the film’s end.