Story [from Harry Segall’s play Heaven Can Wait] humorously poses the theory of reincarnation of a personality and soul that has been snatched from its earthly body 50 years before the cosmic schedule. Robert Montgomery is an aggressive prizefighter, determined to be champ, with an airplane and saxophone as hobbies. Flying from training camp to New York, the plane crashes, and Montgomery is snatched by Heavenly messenger Edward Everett Horton from his earthly body, and taken to Heaven for celestial registration.
When it is found Montgomery’s arrival is premature, and his earthly body has already been cremated to prevent replacement, it’s up to registrar Claude Rains (Mr Jordan) to secure another body suitable to Montgomery. In this body, retaining his own soul, Montgomery falls in love with Evelyn Keyes, daughter of a duped financial agent. After wandering for weeks in search of another landing, under guidance of Rains, Montgomery lands permanently in the body of a contender for the boxing championship.
Montgomery’s portrayal is a highlight in a group of excellent performances. Keyes displays plenty of charm. James Gleason scores as the fast-gabbing fight manager, who is bewildered by the proceedings. Direction by Alexander Hall sustains a fast pace throughout.
1941: Best Original Story, Screenplay.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Robert Montgomery), Supp. Actor (James Gleason), B&W Cinematography