On May 11, 1941, boxer and amateur pilot Joe Pendleton (Robert Montgomery), affectionately known as "the Flying Pug", flies his small aircraft to his next fight in New York City, but crashes when a control cable severs. His soul is "rescued" by 7013 (Edward Everett Horton), an officious angel who assumed that Joe could not have survived. Joe's manager, Max "Pop" Corkle (James Gleason), has his body cremated. In the afterlife, the records show his death was a mistake; he was supposed to live for 50 more years. The angel's superior, Mr. Jordan (Claude Rains), confirms this, but since there is no more body, Joe will have to take over a newly dead corpse. Mr. Jordan explains that a body is just something that is worn, like an overcoat; inside, Joe will still be himself. Joe insists that it be someone in good physical shape, because he wants to continue his boxing career.
After Joe turns down several "candidates", Mr. Jordan takes him to see the body of a crooked, extremely wealthy banker and investor named Bruce Farnsworth, who has just been drugged and drowned in a bathtub by his wife Julia (Rita Johnson) and his secretary, Tony Abbott (John Emery). Joe is reluctant to take over a life so unlike his previous one, but when he sees the murderous pair mockingly berating Miss Logan (Evelyn Keyes), the daughter of a financier who was sold worthless bonds by Farnsworth's bank, he changes his mind and agrees to take over Farnsworth's body.
As Farnsworth, Joe repays all the investors, including Miss Logan's father. He sends for Corkle and convinces him that he is Joe (by playing his saxophone just as badly as he did in his previous incarnation). With Farnsworth's money to smooth the way, Corkle trains him and arranges a bout with the current heavyweight champion, but Mr. Jordan returns to warn Joe that, while he is destined to be the champion, it cannot happen that way. Joe has just enough time to tell Miss Logan, with whom he has fallen in love, that if a stranger (especially if he is a boxer) approaches her, to give him a chance. Then he is shot by his secretary. The body is hidden, and Joe returns to a ghostly existence.
Accompanied by Mr. Jordan, Joe finds that his replacement in the prizefight with the champ is a clean-cut, honest fighter named Murdoch, whom Joe knows and respects. Finding that he has forgotten his lucky saxophone, Joe runs back to the Farnsworth mansion to find that everyone believes Farnsworth has "disappeared." Corkle has hired a private investigator to find him. Corkle explains about Joe, Mr. Jordan and the body-switching, but of course the police detective (Donald MacBride) thinks he is a nut. Joe manages to mentally nudge Corkle into turning on the radio to the fight and hears that Murdoch has collapsed without even being touched. Mr. Jordan reveals that the boxer was shot by gamblers because he refused to throw the fight. Joe takes over Murdoch's body and wins the title. Back at the mansion, Corkle hears one of the radio announcers mention a saxophone hanging by the ringside and realizes Joe has assumed Murdoch's body.
Corkle races down to the dressing room. There, Joe passes along information from Mr. Jordan that Farnsworth's body is in a refrigerator in the basement of the mansion. Corkle tells the detective, who promptly has Mrs. Farnsworth and the secretary arrested. As Murdoch, Joe fires his old, crooked manager and hires Corkle. Mr. Jordan reveals to Joe that this is his destiny; he can be Murdoch and live his life.
Healing the gunshot wound and at the same time removing Joe's memory of his past life, Mr. Jordan hangs around for a bit longer until Miss Logan arrives. She wanted to see Corkle, but runs into Murdoch instead. The pair feel they have met before. The two go off together, while Mr. Jordan smiles and says "So long, champ."Robert Montgomery as Joe Pendleton
Evelyn Keyes as Bette Logan
Claude Rains as Mr. Jordan
Rita Johnson as Julia Farnsworth
Edward Everett Horton as Messenger 7013
James Gleason as Max "Pop" Corkle
John Emery as Tony Abbott
Donald MacBride as Insp. Williams
Don Costello as Lefty
Halliwell Hobbes as Sisk
Benny Rubin as "Bugsy" (the handler)
Lloyd Bridges as Mr. Sloan, the co-pilot
Eddie Bruce as Reporter
John Ince as Bill Collector
Bert Young as Taxi Driver
Warren Ashe as Charlie
Ken Christy as Plainclothesman
Chester Conklin as Newsboy
Joseph Crehan as Doctor
Mary Currier as Secretary
Edmund Elton as Elderly man
Tom Hanlon as Announcer
Bobby Larson as "Chips"
Douglas Wood as Board Member (uncredited)
Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn was persuaded to try a somewhat "risky" project in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, despite his well-founded policy of building on past successful ventures, rather than financing more adventurous films. The original 1938 stage play, Heaven Can Wait by Harry Segall, was adapted to form the basis of the film. Broadway producer Jed Harris had planned to produce the play on the New York stage, until Columbia purchased the rights as a vehicle for Cary Grant. While it was still in preproduction, Montgomery was borrowed from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to star in the film.
Principal photography began on April 21, 1941, and ran until June 5, 1941. Location shooting took place at Providencia Ranch, California, and on Universal City sound stages.
Upon Here Comes Mr. Jordan's world premiere at Radio City Music Hall, film critic Theodore Strauss of The New York Times noted, "... Columbia has assembled its brightest people for a delightful and totally disarming joke at heaven's expense." He further described the film as, "... gay, witty, tender and not a little wise. It is also one of the choicest comic fantasies of the year."
Variety called Montgomery's acting "a highlight in a group of excellent performances" and praised Hall's direction for "expert handling of characters and wringing utmost interest out of every scene."
Harrison's Reports wrote, "Here is a picture that is praiseworthy from many angles; for one thing, the theme is novel and the plot developments ingenious; for another, the production values are good, and the acting and direction are of a high standard."
The review in Film Daily opined, "Producer Everett Riskin, noted for his successes in the field of comedy, had no cinch with this property which might easily have backfired with an inexperienced hand at the helm. But Riskin's talent and knowledge has placed this finished product very near the peak of perfection in film making." Here Comes Mr. Jordan placed fifth on the year-end poll of 548 critics nationwide at Film Daily, naming it one of the best films of 1941.
Russell Maloney of The New Yorker called the film "one of the brightest comedies of the year ... Mr. Rains' acting is the kind that makes the word 'ham' a word of endearment, and I mean that for a compliment."
Film critic Leonard Maltin noted that Here Comes Mr. Jordan was an "Excellent fantasy-comedy of prizefighter Montgomery accidentally sent to heaven before his time, forced to occupy a new body on earth. Hollywood moviemaking at its best, with first-rate cast and performances."
Harry Segall won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story, while Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller won for Best Writing, Screenplay. Nominations included: Best Picture, Montgomery for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Hall for Best Director, Gleason for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Joseph Walker for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan was preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archive with the cooperation of Columbia Pictures and the Library of Congress.
On January 26, 1942, Claude Rains, Evelyn Keyes and James Gleason reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast with Cary Grant, the original choice for the lead role, co-starring. Here Comes Mr. Jordan was remade as Heaven Can Wait (1978), starring Warren Beatty, Buck Henry and Julie Christie. Down to Earth (2001), sharing the title with the sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan, starred Chris Rock. Jhuk Gaya Aasman (English: The Skies Have Bowed) (1968) was an Indian remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan.