Apparently, the gates of Hell are guarded by some extremely fabulous art deco furniture. At least, that’s how it appears in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1943 masterpiece Heaven Can Wait (Disc/Download). Starring Don Ameche as the recently deceased Henry Van Cleve (a man who thinks he’s done nothing in life to deserve a spot in Heaven), this movie is essentially Henry’s memoirs, as told to the guardian of Hell, His Excellency. Lucky for us, Henry’s life was one of Technicolor, romance, and whiskey- the perfect blend!
Set in the years between 1872 and 1942, the movie tells the stories of Henry’s “misdeeds”, which were actually, as it turns out, examples of his big heart. They were often things that society and/or his family frowned upon, yet Henry did them without malice, and usually for the right reasons. That’s the key to understanding Heaven Can Wait, for a person’s worth shouldn’t be measured in things like perfection or altruism, but in love and good intentions. Henry wasn’t perfect, but deep down, he was good. And damned if he didn’t have one of the most charming bookshop meet-cutes with his future wife, played by the lovely Gene Tierney. The romance sneaks up on you in this movie, but when it hits, it hits hard.
According to Henry, when he dreams of Heaven, it is a Heaven full of whiskey and soda. I might choose a different cocktail for my own personal afterlife (I like to believe there are rivers of French ’75s up there), but let’s at least see if he’s onto something. While watching Heaven Can Wait, I recommend drinking a Whiskey Soda.
2 oz Whiskey (your favorite brand)
4 oz Club Soda
Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a citrus twist.
It’s a testament to the film’s script that what is essentially a comedy of manners turns out to be such a profound philosophical work of art. With humor and fantastic lines that make you ache inside they’re so good, we learn what the phrase “a life well-lived” actually means. If you believe in Heaven and Hell, then you know Henry carved out his spot in the good place long ago. Cheers!