Heaven Only Knows (1947)


aka Montana Mike

USA. 1947.


Director – Albert S. Rogell, Screenplay – Art Arthur & Rowland V. Lee, Story – Aubrey Wisberg, Producer – Seymour Nebenzal, Photography (b&w) – Karl Struss, Music – Heinz Roemheld. Production Company – United Artists


Robert Cummings (Michael), Brian Donlevy (Adam ‘Duke’ Byron), Marjorie Reynolds (Drusilla Wainwright), Jurja Cartwright (Ginger), Bill Goodwin (Plumber), Gerald Mohr (Treason), Peter Miles (Speck), Edgar Kennedy (Jud)


Up in Heaven a discrepancy is found in the Book of Life – that Adam ‘Duke’ Byron’s name is not recorded, meaning that he has no soul. And so the archangel Michael is dispatched to Earth to rectify the mistake and get Byron to change his ways and marry the woman he is meant to. Arriving in the Old West town of Glacier, Montana, Michael finds the town split down the middle by a deadly war between Byron, who runs a crooked gambling den, and his former partner Plumber, in which innocent bystanders are being killed. As he arrives, Michael is mistaken for a professional killer The Kansas City Kid who has been brought in by Plumber to rub out Duke. Caught up in the deadly rivalry between the two camps, Michael has to labour against this seemingly impossible situation and get Byron to see the error of his ways and fulfil his destiny by marrying Drusilla Wainwright, the schoolteacher who is fervently opposed to Duke and all the killings.

Heaven Only Knows/Montana Mike is a real oddity of a film. It starts out as a comedy of divine errors, one that has clearly taken its inspiration from the hit Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941) of a few years earlier. These scenes bounce around some occasionally amusing jokes – the Heavenly elevator operator asks Michael: “All the way down?” “No, just to Earth,” whereupon the operator shrugs “Might as well be.” However, once the film gets to Earth, it turns serious to deliver a ponderous but engagingly solemn message on Christian virtue. It all gets heavy-handed but is written consistently well enough to maintain interest. The cast – Robert Cummings, Marjorie Reynolds and Jurja Cartwright – work wonders and manage to make up for the presence of the perpetually stolid Brian Donlevy.

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