"The last miracle I did was the 1969 Mets. Before that, I think you have to go back to the Red Sea."
A series of movies starring George Burns
The first movie, Oh, God!
(1977) was directed by Carl Reiner, based on a novel by Avery Corman. John Denver plays Jerry Landers, an assistant manager at a supermarket who is chosen by God to spread His message. Though reluctant at first, Jerry eventually believes in his cause, and his efforts strains his marriage, endangers his job, and puts him in the path of a popular televangelist. It briefly ended A New Hope
's reign as the #1 box office in October 1977, and was nominated for a Best Writer Oscar.
The sequel, Oh, God! Book II
(1980), essentially recycled the plot of the first, but with eleven-year-old Tracy Richards (Louanne Sirota) as His messenger. Tracy is inspired to start a "Think God" campaign at her school, but her divorced parents think she's crazy and plot to halt her mission.
Recognizing that the appeal of the series was George Burns
himself, the third movie Oh, God! You Devil
(1984) has him play both God and Satan
. In a straightforward Deal with the Devil
plot, a struggling musician named Bobby Shelton (Ted Wass) sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for fame and fortune. Trapped by Satan, he seeks help from God (who has been watching over him), and the two nemeses face off for God's list of protected souls.
Several attempts to remake the movie have ended up in Development Hellnote
, most recently with Ellen DeGeneres
or Betty White
in the lead role.
This series demonstrates the following tropes:
- Actually Pretty Funny: When Bobby sees God, he thinks it's Tophet. When he realizes who it is, he apologizes.
Bobby: You look like the Devil.
God: I know. I haven't been feeling well lately.
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: God specifically tells His prophets that he could have appeared in any other form, but chose one that they could understand.
- Almighty Janitor: At one point, God appears as a litter-cleaner in a park.
- Answers to the Name of God: In Oh God! Book II, God messes with the heads of several psychologists by toying with whether it was day or night. When He finally seems to have stopped and departed, one sighs, "Thank God!" and His voice responds, "You're welcome."
- Another example occurs in Oh God! You Devil:
Bobby Shelton: Who are you?
Bobby Shelton: My God!
Devil: *wry smile* Guess again.
- Artistic License – Traditional Christianity: It was kind of inevitable that the movie's interpretation of God would deviate a bit from the typical theological view. One of the most blatant instances is the page quote; it appears that God has a really lousy memory, because he did a lot of miracles after the Red Sea thing.
- Fridge Logic: Who says He's the Christian god?
- Even if we're going purely Old Testament, he still did a lot of miracles, some of the highlights being several resurrections, blinding an entire army, making the king of the most powerful empire in the world go insane, and raining fire down on two separate armies who threatened one of his prophets.
- Perhaps he's just being snarky about it? After all...he is being played by George Burns.
- Book Ends: Oh, God! You Devil starts and ends with a father praying over, and singing to, a sick child.
- Creator Cameo: In the first movie, director Carl Reiner appears as the guest on the Dinah Shore Show before Jerry's segment.
- Chekhov's Gun: God's voice cannot be recorded.
- Deadpan Snarker: God, as played by George Burns.
"If it pleases the court...and even if it doesn't..."
- Deal with the Devil: The third movie.
- Disaster Dominoes: In Oh God! You Devil, when Harry Tophet first introduces himself to Bobby during the wedding reception, Tophet's "I can make things happen" sales pitch is seemingly no different from that of any other agent. Tophet proves otherwise when he uses a bit of his demonic mojo to turn a woman's escargot back into live snails. The woman's panicked rush to get away from her plate causes a series of mishaps—including one of the tents being brought down—ending with the newlyweds themselves taking an unwilling dip in the swimming pool.
- Divinely Appearing Demons: In Oh, God! You Devil, George Burns plays both God and the Devil. They look the same, although the Devil prefers to dress all in red.
- Divine Race Lift: Among God's other forms are a black woman and a Hispanic busboy.
- Elderly Immortal: George Burns, a classic Type D.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: In Oh God! You Devil!, God makes a rainbow appear in the night sky above Las Vegas to confirm that he has heard Bobby Shelton's prayer.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Devil believes there's no way God would put untold thousands of souls on the line just to save one man. He is proven wrong during the poker showdown in Oh God! You Devil.
- Evil Is Petty: The Devil delights himself by bringing the gypsy moth back to New England.
- Give Me a Sign: To prove His divinity, Jerry asks God to make it rain. He does so... inside Jerry's moving car.
God: "Why should I spoil everybody's day?"
- God in Human Form
- God Is Flawed: Played mildly for laughs. God readily admits His mistakes, such as the goofy design of ostriches and the oversized avocado pits.
- God Is Good
"If it's hard to have faith in me, maybe it will help to know that I have faith in you."
- The Gods Must Be Lazy: Invoked repeatedly by God; whenever He is asked why He doesn't solve the world's problems with his omnipotence, He simply handwaves it as something people must do for themselves.
- God Test: To prove His divinity, Jerry asks God to make it rain. He does so... inside Jerry's moving car.
God: "Why should I spoil everybody's day?"
- God Was My Copilot: The main plot of the first two movies.
- Grandpa God: Granted, he's a lot less majestic than the usual use of this trope...
- Hold Your Hippogriffs:
- At the climax of Oh God! You Devil, when the Devil lost his nerve in a poker showdown with God, God commented, "I put the fear of Me into you."
- In the first movie, God is sworn into court testimony by pledging "...so help me Me."
- Invisible to Normals: God cannot be seen, heard, or recorded by humans unless He allows it. This even extends to transcripts, such as a stenotype paper record of His testimony.
- Jerkass God: A borderline case; while God is not particularly malicious, He also doesn't seem to care about the difficulties that Jerry (or his family) goes through in delivering His message.
Jerry: "I lost my job, you know."
God: "Lose a job, save a world. Not a bad deal."
- Jesus Taboo: Played with; when asked, God admits that Jesus was His son — but then also counts Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, and various other spiritual leaders as His children as well.
- King of All Cosmos
- Leno Device: Jerry doesn't get a lot of attention for his claims of talking to God until after he appears on the Dinah Shore Show.
- Louis Cypher: In Oh, God! You Devil, Satan visits Bobby Shelton with the name Harry O. Tophet, a reference to the Canaanite sacrificial city and a euphemism for Hell.
- The Magic Poker Equation: Averted in the ending of Oh, God! You Devil. God beats the Devil in a hand of poker when the Devil decides to fold. And what was God's downright amazing hand? Complete garbage.
- Missing Floor/Strange Secret Entrance: Jerry Landers first talks to God on the 27th floor of a building that has only 17 floors.
- Mission from God: Done literally in the first two films.
- Newscaster Cameo: Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters appear in the second movie to discuss Tracy's "Think God" campaign.
- Not So Omniscient After All
Jerry: "...I thought you could tell the future."
God: "Absolutely, I can tell the future — the minute it becomes the past."
- Rhetorical Request Blunder: In Oh God! You Devil, Bobby Shelton, at the end of his rope following yet another boring, low-paying, dead-end gig, says aloud to himself, "I'd sell my soul to the Devil to make it in this business. Just for the chance." Unfortunately for him, those words didn't go unnoticed.
- Satan: As seen in the third movie, using the name "Harry O. Tophet"
- Second Face Smoke: In Oh God! You Devil, the Devil does this to Bobby, before vanishing in the cloud of cigar smoke.
- Sinister Minister: Played mildly in Oh, God!, with money-grubbing televangelist Willie Williams.
- Stop Trick: Done in the final courtroom scene of the first movie, when God repeatedly makes a deck of cards appear and disappear.
- Stop Worshipping Me: Happens briefly in the first film. After Jerry appears on the Dinah Shore Show and talks about his visits with God, his home is mobbed by groupies and visitors who want his time, his blessing, and his divine seed.
"I went to take out the garbage today and two people blessed me! And one of them blessed the garbage!"
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Just after the Disaster Dominoes event at the wedding reception (see above), Bobby is startled to notice that Tophet has suddenly disappeared, leaving only his still-lit cigar behind. He's also shocked to hear Tophet's disembodied voice wrap up his sales pitch, telling Bobby to keep in touch. After the voice falls silent, Bobby talks aloud to himself.
Bobby Shelton: I'm flipping out!
*looks at the reverse side of Harry Tophet's business card, which was previously blank*
Tophet's Card: You're not flipping out.
- What Were You Thinking?: In Oh God! You Devil, God gives Bobby this sort of rebuke when Bobby begs for His help.
God: You made a deal with the Devil. How dumb could you be?
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In Oh God!, Jerry is given a series of tests for God to perform. God notes they are in Aramaic and the tests play no further part in the movie. In the original book, God revealed his presence by solving all the tests, not personally appearing.
- Your Radio Hates You: At one point, Jerry turns on the radio only to hear nothing but songs that involve the word "rain."