AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Heavenly Body
Alternate Title: The Stars Can Wait
Director: Alexander Hall (Dir)
Release Date:   Apr 1944
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 23 Mar 1944
Production Date:   4 May--early Aug 1943
Duration (in mins):   93 or 95
Duration (in feet):   8,514
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Cast:   William Powell (William S. Whitley)  
    Hedy Lamarr (Vicky Whitley)  
    James Craig (Lloyd X. Hunter)  
    Fay Bainter ([Mrs.] Margaret Sibyll)  
    Henry O'Neill (Professor Stowe)  
    Spring Byington (Nancy Potter)  
    Robert Sully (Strand)  
    Morris Ankrum (Dr. Green)  
    Franco Corsaro (Sebastian Melas)  
    Connie Gilchrist (Beulah [Delia Murphy])  
    Max Willenz (Dr. Gurtchakoff)  
    Alex Melish (Vladimir)  
    Earl Schenck (Forbes)  
    Arthur Space (Pierson)  
    Helen Freeman (Stella)  
    Phyllis Kennedy (Ethel)  
    Marietta Canty (Pearl [Harrison])  
    Nicodemus (Willie)  
    Howard Mitchell (Nicholas)  
    Dan B. Sheffield (Frank)  
    Gertrude W. Hoffmann (Mrs. Potter's mother)  
    James Baskett (Porter)  
    Jack George (Accompanist)  
    Elspeth Dudgeon (Lady)  
    Bertram Marburgh (Old man)  
    Wheaton Chambers (Old gentleman)  
    Evellyn Dockson (Maid)  
    Jacqueline Miller (W. U. girl)  
    Ralph Sanford (Policeman)  
    John Sheehan (Policeman)  
    Buddy Gorman (Newsboy)  
    Cliff Nazarro (Milkman)  
    William Sabbot (Knife thrower)  
    Andre Charlot (Dr. Burns)  
    John Elliott (Prof. Collier)  
    Howard Hickman (Scientist)  
    Henry Sylvester (Scientist)  
    Gus Glassmire (Scientist)  

Summary: In Bandello, California, just outside Los Angeles, noted astronomer William S. Whitley is about to make scientific history for his discovery of a new comet. Although Bill's young wife Vicky is supportive of his work, she has grown weary of his long, odd hours and yearns for companionship. Consequently, Vicky agrees to visit Mrs. Margaret Sibyll, an astrologer recommended by her nosy next-door neighbor, Nancy Potter, even though she knows that Bill would disapprove. After briefly reading Vicky's astrological chart, Mrs. Sibyll predicts that "something important" is soon going to happen to her. Later, at home, Vicky tells Bill that because of her astrological "aspects," he can no longer kiss her on Tuesdays. Bill explodes at Vicky's involvement with Mrs. Sibyll, but is unable to dissuade her. Two weeks later, Vicky shows up at Bill's mountaintop observatory to inform him that she is leaving him for a "man who really loves" her. Vicky reveals that, as Mrs. Sibyll has predicted that she will meet her "dream" man within two weeks, she wants to make herself available to for him now. Bill manages to make light of the situation until Vicky moves out of their bedroom. Infuriated, Bill takes up residence at the observatory and attempts to concentrate on a lecture he is scheduled to deliver about his comet. Two weeks later, just before midnight, Vicky calls Bill at work and reveals that, as her dream man has yet to appear, she has decided that Mrs. Sibyll is a fake. Relieved, Bill races home, but before he arrives, Vicky meets Lloyd X. Hunter, the handsome neighborhood air raid warden. Although Lloyd, a former foreign correspondent, fits Mrs. Sibyll's description of Vicky's dream lover to a tee, Bill is oblivious to his wife's interest in the warden. Later, however, Vicky tells Bill that Lloyd is "the one." The next day, Lloyd returns to the Whitleys' to pick up a bag he left and is stunned when Bill reveals Vicky's plan to make him her second husband. Lloyd at first agrees to Bill's suggestion that he change his route to avoid Vicky, but soon returns to confess that he intends to pursue her. Later, a frantic, distracted Bill leaps from his co-worker Professor Stowe's car on the way to his comet lecture. Stowe is about to deliver the lecture himself when Bill shows up at the observatory, gleeful because he is convinced that, through a ruse, he has separated Vicky and Lloyd. As he is about to start his lecture, however, Bill looks through a small telescope he uses to check up on Vicky and sees that she has unexpectedly gone to their mountain cabin, the same place to which he sent Lloyd. Bill carries on with his lecture, which he delivers while an image of Whitley's Comet is being projected on a wall, but becomes almost incoherent when, through the telescope, he spies Vicky and Lloyd meeting at the cabin. Afterward, Bill rushes to the cabin and finds Lloyd seranading Vicky with Bill's guitar. Insisting that she came to the cabin to get away from Lloyd, Vicky tells Bill that their meeting is further proof that they are destined to be together. The next day, Bill gets the idea to steal Vicky's weekly horoscope before she reads it and replace it with one that predicts his imminent doom. An anxious Vicky calls Mrs. Sybill to confirm the prediction, unaware that Bill is with the astrologer, threatening to destroy her office if she reveals his subterfuge. Bill then intimidates Mrs. Sybill into maintaining her silence by implying he knows about some illegal activity in which she is involved. As hoped, Bill's dire "prognosis" delays Vicky's abandonment and fills Lloyd with jealousy. Even after the teetotaling Bill becomes drunk with a Russian dog groomer, whom he is passing off as his doctor, Vicky is sure he is going to die. Then, just as Bill starts to write his will, Vicky is summoned by Mrs. Sibyll, who reveals that she had been hording canned goods but has "come clean" with the ration board and now wants to set the record straight regarding Bill. At the Whitleys', Lloyd tells Bill about Mrs. Sibyll's call, and sure that Vicky will be furious with him, Bill leaves home. To Lloyd's dismay, Vicky is instead touched by the lengths to which Bill has gone to win her back and breaks with Lloyd. After three weeks, however, Bill is still missing, and Vicky leaves for Reno to get a divorce. On the way, she stops at the observatory and takes a nostalgic peek through Bill's telescope. To her surprise, she sees Bill walking outside their cabin and dashes off to reunite with him. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Alexander Hall (Dir)
  Bill Lewis (Asst dir)
  Vincente Minnelli (Fill-In dir)
  Joan Hathaway (Dial dir)
Producer: Arthur Hornblow Jr. (Prod)
Writer: Michael Arlen (Scr)
  Walter Reisch (Scr)
  Harry Kurnitz (Adpt)
  Jacques Thery (Based upon a story by)
Photography: Robert Planck (Dir of photog)
  William Daniels (Dir of photog)
  Irving Glassberg (2d cam)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  William Ferrari (Assoc)
Film Editor: Blanche Sewell (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  McLean Nisbet (Assoc)
Costumes: Irene (Cost supv)
Music: Bronislau Kaper (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
  William Brockway (Unit mixer)
  Howard Culver (Unit mixer)
  Standish J. Lambert (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  Robert W. Shirley (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  William Steinkamp (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  Michael Steinore (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  John A. Williams (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  M. J. McLaughlin (Music mixer)
  Herbert Stahlberg (Music mixer)
Special Effects: Arnold Gillespie (Spec eff)
  Warren Newcombe (Matte paintings)
  Mark Davis (Matte paintings cam)
  Danny Hall (Miniatures)
Production Misc: Arthur Rose (Unit mgr)
  Dr. Robert S. Richardson (Consultant to art dir)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 4/1/1944 dd/mm/yyyy LP12526 Yes

PCA NO: 9491
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Romantic comedy
Subjects (Major): Air raid wardens
  Neglected wives
  Romantic rivalry
Subjects (Minor): Cabins
  Dog groomers
  Los Angeles (CA)
  Rationing in wartime
  Separation (Marital)

Note: The working title of this film was The Stars Can Wait . Although onscreen credits list Connie Gilchrist's character name as "Beulah," she is called "Delia Murphy" in the film. Except for a cameo appearance in M-G-M's 1943 picture The Youngest Profession (see below entry), The Heavenly Body marked William Powell's first picture since the 1942 film Crossroads (see above entry). Crossroads was also the first time in which Powell co-starred with Hedy Lamarr, and according to modern sources, the success of that film prompted M-G-M to re-team them in The Heavenly Body .
       M-G-M borrowed director Alexander Hall from Columbia for this production. In mid-Jul 1943, when Hall was forced to return to Columbia to begin work on Once Upon a Time (see entry below), Vincente Minnelli took over as director for the remainder of the production. Although Robert Planck is credited onscreen as director of photography, William Daniels was listed as cameraman in all HR production charts. In M-G-M publicity material, located in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, Phillip Terry was listed in the role of "Whitley's" assistant, but he did not appear in the final film. Lloyd Ford, Bobby Waters and Rex Evans were listed by CBCS as cast members, but their parts were not included in the completed film. Although Arno Frey and Dudley Dickerson were listed in HR news items as cast members, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   8 Jan 1944.   
Daily Variety   29 Dec 43   p. 3, 15
Film Daily   29 Dec 43   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Mar 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Mar 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   4 May 43   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   7 May 43   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   19 May 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Jun 43   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jul 43   p. 1, 7
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jul 43   p. 1, 9
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jul 43   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jul 43   p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 44   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   1 Jan 44   p. 1693.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   25 Sep 44   p. 1555.
New York Times   24 Mar 44   p. 17
Variety   29 Dec 43   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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