January 29, 2013
George Burns, John Denver, and Teri Garr
Voltaire may have had me pegged. He said I was a comedian
playing to an audience who's afraid to laugh."
Every decade has a couple of comedies that could only have
existed in that decade, and that can only be described as "light and
fun." They are around for a while, people like them because
are sweet and funny and innocent, and then they sort of fade away when
a new decade comes along and America moves on to the next sweet gentle
family friendly comedy.
Oh, God! is a perfect example of a light fun comedy movie from the 70's
that only could have existed in the 70's.
Mostly because it stars this guy
If you have never seen Oh, God before (and I am guessing that nobody
under the age of 25 ever has) it is the story of a man named Jerry
Jerry is nothing special. He is just your
average ordinary guy who works as the manager of a grocery store.
He has a couple of kids. There is nothing even
remarkable about him. He is just some guy who has a job.
would say that the haircut makes him unique, but I should point out
that 80% of the world in 1977 had this exact same haircut.
Basically Jerry looked like everyone at the end of the 70's.
Well one day Jerry is just going around town, doing whatever he
does at the grocery store, and something extraordinary happens.
All of a sudden God starts speaking to him.
Like, directly speaking to him.
It turns out that God has a job for him.
God has decided that he wants to pass along a message to the
world. He wants the people of the world to know that yes, God
still cares about them. And yes, He still loves them.
yes, the world can work if they are willing to put in
effort. He wants the people of the world to know that it is
up to them.
And for whatever reason, He has randomly chosen Jerry to be the one who
is going to spread this message.
God instructing Jerry that he is going to be His new messenger
There really isn't much more to the storyline
than that. God comes down from Heaven, He picks out a
and then the rest of the movie is Jerry trying to figure out A) if this
old guy really is God, and B) how he can spread the word of God without
coming off like a lunatic.
Oh yeah, and trying to convince his wife that he hasn't gone completely
Jerry and his long suffering wife, played by Teri Garr
Oh, God is one of those movies that I saw a ton of times when I was a
kid. It was always on TV in the early 80's. And it
funny because it never had to be edited down for TV. It was
of those rare movies that was light and innocent even for a PG movie,
so when they showed it on TV they could actually show the entire movie.
It isn't profane or offensive or even edgy in the slightest.
It is mostly just George Burns firing off one liners and Teri
Garr being exasperated, and John Denver trying his best to
make everyone happy.
It is also the only movie role that John Denver ever had in his entire
life. Can you believe that? He had never acted
prior to this movie, he came in and he was absolutely perfect (and the
movie was actually a pretty big hit), and then he never acted again.
Don't ask me who decided that John Denver the folk singer would be the
perfect choice to play Jerry Landers. I can't even fathom how
many actors must have turned this role down before they arrived at
Denver. But you watch the movie now and you realize he was
absolutely perfect for it. It kind of makes me sad to realize
that he never acted in a movie again.
John Denver as Jerry Landers the everyman
Of course the big star of the movie is George Burns.
He plays God and, as you would imagine, he plays a different kind of
God than you would see in most movies. In this movie God
isn't stern at all, He is more of a vaudevillian. Most of the
movie is him discussing scripture and blowing off any questions about
his existence with some sort of a one liner. In other words,
nobody else really could have played this role. It was tailor
made for a guy like George Burns. Cause that was how he was.
God on the witness stand in court. "I swear to tell the
truth, so help me me."
Even though Oh, God is a light, harmless, completely good natured and
inoffensive comedy, it is one those movies that has just sort of stuck
with me over the years. It is not a masterpiece by any
stretch of the imagination, and I can't imagine a movie like this
would be made today. Heck, it starred John Denver
and George Burns, neither one of whom was ever really known for being
much of a movie star. Seriously, look it up, George Burns was
around forever but he only made about eight movies. The fact
that this movie, about this subject, starring -these- people, would
turn out to be such a big hit, well that was probably
a surprise to everyone. I mean, Oh, God was no Star
Wars, but it was certainly one of the other big movies of 1977*.
* It was the seventh highest grossing movie that year.
Before I sign off, let me just add one last thing about this movie.
I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination.
In fact a lot of people would say I was anti religion.
If you have read any of my posts on Facebook at all, I'm sure
you have figured out by now that I have a pretty low opinion of
religion in general.
However, I -love- the movie Oh, God.
And I know what you are going to say. If you are religious,
you are going to read that and probably think "Oh great, some douchebag
who hates religion loves this movie because it makes fun of God."
But that is not true at all. I would say Oh, God is
as reverential and as thoughtful towards God than just about any movie
I have ever seen.
Even though God is, yes, at one point a cab driver
I saw Oh, God recently for the first time in about twenty years, and
when I saw it was amazed at how well written it was. And how
respectful it was. And how well the theology and the logic
behind it holds up. Like I said before, this is NOT a
controversial movie. It isn't going to offend anyone.
You could show this movie to your five year old kid and you
will both probably enjoy it.
What I love about this movie is that it is the ONE movie out there
about religion that can kind of win me over. Bruce Almighty,
yeah it was okay. Evan Almighty, whatever. But when
I watch Oh, God, and I see George Burns' take on a kind hearted God who
has no use for religion (but who still loves his people), well that is
the kind of theology that I think anyone could get behind.
In the end, if I could offer one recommendation about Oh, God,
it is this. I don't like religion. I don't know any
movie about religion out there that would interest me in the slightest.
But Oh, God is fantastic. It is one of those gentle
little movies that doesn't really try to do much, but George Burns and
John Denver are so good at what they do (and the script is so good)
that it will warm your little heart. If there really is a
God, I would hope that He would be a lot like George Burns.
And again, the fact that John Denver never acted in another
movie is pretty amazing.
The voice of the people
favorite IMDB user reviews about Oh, God!:
Do they make em like that
anymore? - 27 February 2005
was reminded of this wonderful gem of a movie the other night when I
watched Bruce Almighty again with some friends. That's been a favorite
of mine in these last few years. Anyway it reminded me a little of Oh
God for obvious reasons, the references to God, and the thought
provoking quality mixed with wit and intelligent comedy.
was one of my favorite comedies growing up. It definitely is the kind
of comedy that doesn't get made anymore unfortunately. I have yet to
read the other reviews of this and hope to find some tens besides me,
because while this was by and large a comedy, it was a delightful one
and one that still lingers in my thoughts which is obviously why I
decided to do a review. Comedies, when they are perfectly made, deserve
This is a 10 and one of the most thought provoking and
beautiful comedies ever made. I am sure there are many growing up now,
whole hosts of people, who have yet to discover this and I hope they
do, particularly those who are fans of Bruce Almighty and are not aware
of this wonderful movie from the 70's.
And not being a sequel
person, I was a bit surprised that the sequel to this was just as good.
My vote is 10 of 10 for excellent.
A great movie. - 13
God!, is a smart and funny film. It is truthful, without being
condescending. It talks about religion without being religious. It also
showcases George Burns' finest screen appearance aside from The
As God, Burns is astonishing. Whenever John
Denver asks questions that every being would ask if confronted by God,
Burns replies with a certain, common sense, matter of fact response.
There is no grandiose answer. One of my favorite lines is when John
Denver's character asks "Why me?", God says, "Why not you? You know
those supermarket things, every one millionth customer. Or whoever
crosses the bridge at a certain time. Well you're the one millionth
Speaking of Denver, he also is great, playing Jerry,
not as a crazed man, but as an average grocery market assistant manager
who is suddenly faced with the fact that God has chosen him to carry a
message. He plays his character with a certain warmth, and naturalness.
Reiner directed this film, and with a great eye. Notice how Jerry's
everyday life is just that, everyday. The way he is with his wife, and
kids, and people around him. I've seen it a dozen times, because that's
how people actually act. Reiner brought a sense of realness to this
movie, which in effect brought with it believability.
A nice, funny, underrated
little movie. - 26 September 2004
God!" is similar in many ways to "Bruce Almighty," but for some reason
the former has gotten little attention over the years while the latter
was a hit. While "Bruce Almighty" has some funny moments, I think this
one is far superior.
First of all, George Burns is amazing.
Morgan Freeman's God in "Bruce Almighty" had a slightly ominous,
don't-cross-me nature, but Burns' is a God you can completely trust. He
is caring and optimistic, and wants the world to get better. He doesn't
throw Jerry into a situation he can't handle; he is there for him the
whole time. Plus he is just a really fun guy to be around. Who wouldn't
want to believe in a God like that?
John Denver also does a
great job. It is hard to believe he had no acting experience before
this, because he is top-notch. He is a kind, honest guy, not a selfish
jerk like Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty. He is nervous about delivering
God's message to the world, but perfectly willing to do it.
that other God movie, this one delivers a good message without getting
annoyingly preachy, it is consistently funny from start to finish, it
has a likable main character, and it features a God who is a friend,
not an opponent. I think everyone could enjoy watching this, whether
they are religious or not.
Gentle, but significant -
30 September 2004
is a warm, inclusive film. Maybe there's a bit of nostalgia in my
comments, but I appreciate this movie's approach to faith.
comes in a form that our modern society seems to enjoy dismissing-- the
elderly. It's a delight to George Burns, who really does have all that
mileage on him, and John Denver, whom no one will mistake for Laurence
Olivier, create this relationship between the mundane and the spiritual
that is relatable, relaxed and relevant.
In our culture, we already know about the forbidding and the punishing,
and the hostility between faiths.
here's a God who says, paraphrasing here, "Jesus was my son. Moses was
my son. Mohammed was my son. Buddah was my son. And so are you. And so
is the guy who's charging you 18.50 for a piece of room service roast
Inclusive, with gentle humor. Burns' performance suggests
a being who has seen a lot of the world, and doesn't expect anything of
importance to happen quickly.
It's a loving and practical relationship between the everyday and the
the old hands, Barnard Hughes and Paul Sorvino, and the whole gang of
great character actors, make this a treat to watch. And gee, having
Teri Garr play exasperated. That's like asking Pavarotti if maybe he'd
like to sing something.
Maybe a bit sweet for your taste, I
don't know. For me, I can actually watch it whenever it comes on and
enjoy every moment of it.
Still Stands Up - 20 May
was a little apprehensive renting the DVD of this movie after all of
these years since its original release, but most of it holds up
On the DVD commentary track, the makers of the
film, looking back on it after 25 years, seem to be equally as
surprised. The director, Carl Reiner, points to an eight-minute scene
in which it is just Denver and Burns talking in a bathroom. There is no
music, no fast cuts, no special effects, and the scene simply holds our
attention on its own. Mr. Reiner indicates that there is no way that
the scene would be made that way today.
Some scenes are
timeless, such as Jerry's first encounter with the Almighty via
intercom in the all-white room. Also classic is the infamous scene in
the bathroom in which God first reveals himself in the flesh to a
humbled and still somewhat disbelieving John Denver.
not all of the movie holds up as well. Some things, especially
exteriors, seem very dated. And even though it is quaint, it is hard to
believe that an intelligent and capable husband and wife team would
cherish a Supermarket Assistant Manager Job so much. Ah well, it was
another time when people still believed in sticking with one company
and working their way up through the ranks.
I wish that the film
would explore some of the harder questions of religion a little more
seriously, but one wonders if the film would collapse if taken out of
its sweet, feel-good movie formula in which it is helplessly trapped
If anything, rent it for the performances of the two
leads. George Burns, playing the role at 83, is so good, that it is,
(not to be cliched,) awesome. However, what is equally as unbelievable
is the performance of John Denver in his first and only acting gig. He
hits some of his notes perfectly, and it really shows a significant
skill and timing to play straight man to a legend like Burns.
God bless George Burns -
19 September 2003
is a really wonderful film that is masterful in every way. George Burns
joked that when they offered him this part that no one could have
played it because no one was closer to God's age. However, he was
nervous about playing it and consulted the greatest actors about how to
do it. Let me explain this film, the two leads were one person (John
Denver) who was well known as a singer but who had never acted before
in his life and another (George) who at almost 80 had only one other
acting credit (The Sunshine Boys). However, this unlikely duo made
movie magic! It is a truly amazing accomplishment and a joy watching
them together. This is a film that is as important today as it was when
it came out almost a quarter of a century ago. We all need to realize
God's love and his message and no one did a better job of giving that
then George did in this wonderful film, especially in the end in the
courtroom speech that he gives. This man had spent his life as just a
comedian not as an actor, but he deserved another Oscar for his
outstanding work in this wonderful film. Carl Reiner deserves kudos for
his wonderful directing job and Terri Garr gives a great performance as
the understanding wife as does Paul Sorvino as the corrupt evangilist
(they picked a safe target). However, the cheers and handshakes belong
to George Burns and John Denver alone!!!. They have both left us and we
are the poorer for it, but I hope that both of them are having a
wonderful time in Heaven!
* My favorite trivia
about Oh, God!:
* Briefly ended Star Wars's 15-week reign at
the #1 spot at the box office in October of 1977, before Star Wars
returned to the top spot the following week.
favorite quotes from Oh, God!:
People are always praying to you. Do you listen?
God: I can't
help hearing. I don't always listen.
So then you don't care.
course I care! But what can I do?
Jerry Landers: What
can you do? You're God!
for the big picture. I don't get into details.
How can you permit all the suffering that goes on the world?
God: Ah, how
can I permit the suffering?
Jerry Landers: Yes!
God: I don't
permit the suffering. You do. Free will. All the choices are yours.
Choices? What choices?
You can love each other, cherish and nurture each other or you can kill
each other. Incidentally, "kill" is the word. It's not "waste." If I
had wanted "waste" I would have written "thou shalt not waste." You're
doing some very funny things with words. You're also turning the sky
into mud. I look down, I can't believe the filth. Using the rivers for
toilets, poisoning my fishes. You want a miracle? *You* make a fish
from scratch. You can't. You think only God can make a tree? Try coming
up with a mackerel. And when the last one's gone, that'll be that.
Eighty-six on the fish, goodbye sky, so long world, over and out.
"Did Man fall from grace in the Garden of Eden?" I'll tell you
something never came out. I made Adam 17. Eve was 15, 16 tops. I
figured then 16, 17 was middle age, you know. Who knew people would
live so long? Trees I figured had the best chance. Now I realize that
they were kids, babies. Young people can't fall from my grace. They're
my best things.
Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
God: So help
So help you, you?
I went to take out the garbage today and two people blessed me! And one
of them blessed the garbage!
God: Why not
Jerry Landers: You
mean there's no special...
Life is a crap shoot, like the millionth customer that crosses the
bridge gets to shake hands with the governor. You thought I picked you
because you're better than everyone?
better than some but not as good as others, but you crossed the bridge
at the right time.
last miracle I did was the 1969 Mets. Before that, I think you have to
go back to the Red Sea.
reason I put everyone here naked... I wasn't trying to be cute. It's
just that with clothes there's right away pockets, and pockets, you
gotta put something in 'em.
You know, I'm, I'm liable to lose my job.
God: Lose a
job, save a world. Not a bad deal.
I don't even go to any church!
God: Why is
it so hard for you to believe? Is my physical existence any more
improbable than your own? What about all that hoo-ha with the devil
awhile ago from that movie? Nobody had any problem believing that the
devil took over and existed in a little girl. All she had to do was wet
the rug, throw up some pea soup and everybody believed. The devil you
could believe, but not God? I work in my own way. I don't, I don't get
inside little children; they got enough to do just being themselves.
Also I'm not about to go around to every person in the world and say,
'Look it's me, I wanna talk to you.' So I picked one man. One very good
man. I told him God lives. I live. He had trouble believing too, in the
beginning. I understood. I'm not sure how this whole miracle business
started, the idea that anything connected with me has to be a miracle.
Personally I'm sorry that it did. Makes the distance between us even
greater. But if a miracle helps you believe that I am who I say I am...
I'll give you one. A good one.
at the IMDB
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