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"A man with a mansion
A miss with a mission"
Tagline for For Heaven's Sake
Sandwiched between two of comedian Harold Lloyd's most popular films,The Freshman (1925) and The Kid Brother (1927), the 1926comedy hit For Heaven's Sake, is less highly regarded than Lloyd's other comic gems. Nor was it among his personal favorites, even though it marked the fifthcollaboration with his favorite director, Sam Taylor. But the film remainsa winner on almost every front, featuring some of the silent clown's bestsight gags.
Lloyd's personal dislike for the film may have sprung from its tortuousdevelopment. It started out as a story in which his patented boy-next-doorcharacter took on big city corruption and gangsters. But the initialscript was deemed too expensive to film (the ideas would resurface in his1928 Speedy). Instead, it became the tale of a wealthy playboy(Lloyd) who falls for a slum mission worker (Jobyna Ralston) despite thediscouragement of his high society friends, who go so far as to kidnap himto prevent his marrying the girl. At the last minute, he's rescued by a groupfrom the mission who get drunk on his former friends' bootleg liquorbefore embarking on a daredevil bus race to get him to the church ontime.
The hasty re-working may account for the film's derivative nature. Theromance with the mission worker was straight out of Charles Chaplin's EasyStreet (1917). The lengthy sequence in which Lloyd "recruits" convertsfor the mission by antagonizing some of the slum's toughest denizensborrowed liberally from his earlier From Hand to Mouth (1919), whilehe'd already done a similar bus ride in Girl Shy (1924).
Nonetheless, Lloyd lavished his customary perfectionism on the film. Herefused to use trick photography for the scene in which he and his drunkenfriends race to his wedding on a double-decker bus. Instead, the bus wasmounted on a truck equipped with rockers. Though there was little dangerof its tipping over, each lurch felt like the real thing and sent Lloyd andhis co-stars careening toward the railings. For a sequence in which one ofthe revelers walks on the railing on top of the bus, they used a specialbrace that anchored one foot against the railing. He then used the rest ofhis body as though he were barely able to maintain his footing. It tooktwo weeks to film the scenes, during which the police cordoned off threecity blocks for the film crew. Nothing was left to chance; even theon-lookers were paid extras.
Lloyd's perfectionism extended to the post-production work as well. Heconducted five previews, re-shooting entire sequences (at a cost of$150,000) until he felt he had the film right. Still unsatisfied, he cutan entire reel from it, making For Heaven's Sake the last of hisfilms to run under an hour. This was the first film he released through anew contract with Paramount, and according to Jeffrey Vance's biography (Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian), he was still sounhappy that he offered to buy the film back from the studio. Fortunately,they were happy with the finished product -- as were the fans, who paid$2.5 million to see it. The film was one of the top ten at the box officefor 1926 and almost out-grossed The Freshman.
But Lloyd remained unhappy with For Heaven's Sake, which may accountfor the fact that it marked the last time he would play a wealthycharacter. Outweighing his objections, however, was praise from a veryprestigious source, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg, who wrotethat the final race was "the stuntiest that Harold has had since he hung byhis eye-winkers from the skyscraper in Safety Last ! It keeps him inhis unique place on the screen...the best showman the comic spirit has hadto date on the screen."
Producer: Harold Lloyd
Director: Sam Taylor
Screenplay: Clyde Bruckman, John Grey, Ralph Spence, Ted Wilde
Cinematography: Henry N. Kohler, Walter Lundin
Art Direction: Liell K. Vedder
Music: Robert Israel
Principal Cast: Harold Lloyd (J. Harold Manners, the Uptown Boy), JobynaRalston (Hope, the Mission Girl), Noah Young (Bull Brindle, the Roughneck),Paul Weigel (Brother Paul, the Optimist), Jim Mason (The Gangster), RobertDudley (Harold's secretary).
by Frank Miller