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The working title of this film was Birthday. An English translation of Lazlo Bus-Feketes' play, also entitled Birthday, opened in New York on December 26, 1934. According to a May 20, 1942 Los Angeles Examiner news item, Ginger Rogers was considered for the leading female role, and on November 25, 1942, Hollywood Reporter noted that producer/director Ernst Lubitsch was in talks with Joseph Cotten to play the role of "Henry Van Cleve." According to a modern source, Lubitsch and Samson Raphaelson wrote the part for either Fredric March or Rex Harrison, but studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck asked Lubitsch to test Don Ameche. Studio publicity releases announced in early 1943 that Reginald Gardiner was originally set for the part of "Albert Van Cleve," and Frank Orth was to play "a loquacious taxi driver." Contemporary sources reveal that Simone Simon was cast in the part of "Mademoiselle," but, according to a February 4, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, Simon left the picture after her demands to have her part expanded and her name billed higher in the cast list were not met. Signe Hasso was borrowed from M-G-M to replace Simon, and actress Spring Byington was also borrowed from M-G-M for the production. Although studio publicity lists include Robert Michael Chambers in the role of "Henry Van Cleve" as an infant, and a Hollywood Reporter news item includes Gretl Dupont in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
According to a June 25, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, Twentieth Century-Fox president Spyros Skouras believed that the picture was "one of the most important films ever to be released by the organization." Heaven Can Wait, which was Lubitsch's first production for Twentieth Century-Fox and his first film in Technicolor, received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Cinematography (Color) and Best Direction. In 1946, Don Ameche noted in The Saturday Evening Post's "The Role I Liked Best" column that the role of "Henry Van Cleve" was his favorite to date because, "in both the time and the emotional sense," it had "greater scope than any other picture I have played in." On October 10, 1943, Ameche and Maureen O'Hara starred in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of Heaven Can Wait. Modern sources include Claire James, Roseanne Murray, Marion Rosamond, Adele Jergens and Ruth Brady in the cast as Ziegfeld girls.