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Following his demise, the aristocratic Henry Van Cleve (Ameche), having no hope of Paradise, betakes himself "where all his life so many people had told him to go." Hell, or at least its antechamber, would appear to be a luxury hotel in neoclassical mode, and--this is a Lubitsch movie, after all--His Satanic Excellency (Laird Cregar) is a perfect gentleman and the most gracious of hosts. To establish his credentials for spending eternity there, Henry begins to narrate a life which, though lacking any notable crimes, "has been one continuous misdemeanor."
Centered in a Fifth Avenue mansion left over from 19th-century New York, the film is Lubitsch and writing partner Samson Raphaelson's valentine to "an age that has vanished, when it was possible to live for the charm of living." Spanning more than half a century, it chronicles the high points of Henry's life so delicately that--in a variation on the strategies of Lubitsch-Raphaelson's risque '30s classics--it leaves some of them entirely offscreen, their emotional impact measured by what the characters feel and say about them afterward. We'll leave it to you to find out what they are. Suffice it to say that Ameche and Gene Tierney--as Martha, the love of Henry's life--give performances far subtler than anything else in their Fox contract-player careers, and there are sublime opportunities for those peerless character actors Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, and Marjorie Main. --Richard T. Jameson
Despite this, it is very well made and has some great acting.
Yet as the movie goes on we meet characters we come to either find amusing or to like, or both, and they disappear from the screen.
The always-lovely Gene Tierney also turns in a wonderful performance, developping her character as the decades wear on.
I first saw this when I was a kid and fell in love with it, this Don Ameche version is by far the best. Read morePublished 1 month ago by NJD
i watched this movie quite by accident, but, being a lover of old movies, it has stayed in my mind ever since. Read morePublished 1 month ago by P. Lee
Wonderful romantic comedy. Gene Tierney never looked more beautiful, and Don Ameche is brilliant as the irrascible rake. Read morePublished 1 month ago by ladylegal
A delightful movie of yesteryear when movies were made for family consumption and parents did not have to be concerned about content. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Norma Bushorr
Lots of good clean fun. Very entertaining. I love the old movies, I wish I could find more of them to watch.Published 2 months ago by Hilary B Sudeikis
Interesting, but a little too contrived, stilted and slow moving for my tastes. I love Don Ameche, but feel so much more could have been done to bring out his humor in this role. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Anna Mae
I could tell very quickly that this was based on a play. The scenery and costumes were very, very stage-y... as were the performances. Read morePublished 7 months ago by deborah