Heaven Can Wait (United States, 1943)

Figure 1.--The main chracter of the filmm Henry Van Cleef, was played as a child by Scotty Beckett. He appears here in a stlish maroon velvet sailor suit, but the actual color seems to be blue.

This diverting movie was about a charming, but rogish man who loves women--a bit too much. The movie follows him from boyhood to old age. As a boy he wears a stylish sailor suit, complete with flat-style sailor hat and streamer. The film was an elaborate costume drama and shot in hard to get color film during World war II.


"Heaven Can Wait" was an elaborate costume drama and shot in hard to get color film during World war II. Film experts admire the gorgeous 1940s technicolor in this film. The producers usually took great care with the art design of these early technicolor films and Natalie Kalmus, wife of the man who developed the process, was often on the set supervising the technicians. Come the 1950s, and rival processes such as Eastmancolor, and most color movies became a lot more garish and "in your face".


Much of the film takes place in New York during the 1880s, alothough the film follows Henry's entire life over about 60 years or so.


Several boys were pictured in the film with period costumes. This gets complicated because there were diiferent boys depicted at different ages. The staring role of Henry Van Cleeve was played by Don Ameche. Henry as a child was played by Scotty Beckett and as a teenager by Dickie Moore. Both boys were very well known child actors. They were in large numbers of films. Generally they played small roles as children in films rather than being the stars in films built around them. This is how they fit into "Heaven Can Wait". Henry played by Scotty is seen here wearing the sailor suit in the stills. The goodie goodie boy, Albert, was played as a 15-year old boy by Dickie Jones. Henry's son son Jack is played by Niono Pepitone. I'm not sure who plays the little girl here.

Figure 2.--Sailor suits at the time did come in different colors. Note the detailng on the cuff, only two rather than the more traditional three stripes.


In this charming character comedy, Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) dies and presumes, based on his perception of himself, that he's going to hell. He has a discussion with the devil (that's hilariously polite and amiable) in which he reflects back on his life. beliving he has lived a life of sin. He find that he is closely vetted on his qualifications for entry. Surprised there is any question on his suitability, he recounts his lively life and the women he has known from his mother onwards, but mainly concentrating on his happy but sometimes difficult 25 years of marriage to Martha. Stereotypes give way to solid characterization early on, which is largely why the movie succeeds. The younger Henry is depicted as a charming if spoiled little boy and a willful teenager. Even as a little boys he is smitten with the ladies. Comic relief is added by his nemesis--the goodey-goodey but obnoxious Albert. Henry starts getting in trouble with the ladies at a very early age. Of course the widely accepted double standard made the fvilm comoletely acceptable to contemprary movie-goers. It might not gon over as well with modern feminists.


The film was an elaborate costume drama and shot in hard to get color film during World war II. The adult costumes were reasonably accurate. I'm less sure about the children's costumes--although a real effort was made. There seem to have been some errors in the details. I have seen the film, but do not remember the costuming well. The time frame for these stills is I think the 1880s. A HBC reader believes it is more the 1890s. He may well be correct. The clothing depicted I think would be more accurate for the 1890s than the 1880s. The different boys and different periods provide a range of period costumes.

Other Movie

A not very interesteing movie by this name was made in 1978 starring and directed by Warren Beatty. It was a remake of the 1941 film, Here Comes Mr. Jordon.


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Created: June 19, 2000
Last updated: 3:31 AM 10/26/2005