Cast & Crew
J. Harold Manners (The Uptown Boy), a debonair young millionaire in search of a downtown restaurant, passes an evangelist's coffee stand and accidentally starts a fire; Harold contributes a thousand dollars for damages, which the evangelist uses to open a mission named for the donor. Coming to protest this honor, Harold meets Hope, the evangelist's daughter, and offers to help her bring in the poolroom toughs and gangsters. He draws them into a chase, and with the aid of the police, he retrieves the property they have stolen. Harold's club friends abduct him to prevent his marriage to Hope, but his slum cronies come to the club and rescue him. The race back to the mission turns into a melee of trials and tribulations for Harold as his inebriated friends wreak havoc; and at the mission Hope and Harold are married amidst the cheers of the converts.
For Heaven's Sake
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 1926 comedy 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 fifth collaboration with his favorite director, Sam Taylor. But the film remains a winner on almost every front, featuring some of the silent clown's best sight gags.
Lloyd's personal dislike for the film may have sprung from its tortuous development. It started out as a story in which his patented boy-next-door character took on big city corruption and gangsters. But the initial script was deemed too expensive to film (the ideas would resurface in his 1928 Speedy). Instead, it became the tale of a wealthy playboy (Lloyd) who falls for a slum mission worker (Jobyna Ralston) despite the discouragement of his high society friends, who go so far as to kidnap him to prevent his marrying the girl. At the last minute, he's rescued by a group from the mission who get drunk on his former friends' bootleg liquor before embarking on a daredevil bus race to get him to the church on time.
The hasty re-working may account for the film's derivative nature. The romance with the mission worker was straight out of Charles Chaplin's Easy Street (1917). The lengthy sequence in which Lloyd "recruits" converts for the mission by antagonizing some of the slum's toughest denizens borrowed liberally from his earlier From Hand to Mouth (1919), while he'd already done a similar bus ride in Girl Shy (1924).
Nonetheless, Lloyd lavished his customary perfectionism on the film. He refused to use trick photography for the scene in which he and his drunken friends race to his wedding on a double-decker bus. Instead, the bus was mounted on a truck equipped with rockers. Though there was little danger of its tipping over, each lurch felt like the real thing and sent Lloyd and his co-stars careening toward the railings. For a sequence in which one of the revelers walks on the railing on top of the bus, they used a special brace that anchored one foot against the railing. He then used the rest of his body as though he were barely able to maintain his footing. It took two weeks to film the scenes, during which the police cordoned off three city blocks for the film crew. Nothing was left to chance; even the on-lookers were paid extras.
Lloyd's perfectionism extended to the post-production work as well. He conducted five previews, re-shooting entire sequences (at a cost of $150,000) until he felt he had the film right. Still unsatisfied, he cut an entire reel from it, making For Heaven's Sake the last of his films to run under an hour. This was the first film he released through a new contract with Paramount, and according to Jeffrey Vance's biography (Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian), he was still so unhappy 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 office for 1926 and almost out-grossed The Freshman.
But Lloyd remained unhappy with For Heaven's Sake, which may account for the fact that it marked the last time he would play a wealthy character. Outweighing his objections, however, was praise from a very prestigious source, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg, who wrote that the final race was "the stuntiest that Harold has had since he hung by his eye-winkers from the skyscraper in Safety Last ! It keeps him in his unique place on the screen...the best showman the comic spirit has had to 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), Jobyna Ralston (Hope, the Mission Girl), Noah Young (Bull Brindle, the Roughneck), Paul Weigel (Brother Paul, the Optimist), Jim Mason (The Gangster), Robert Dudley (Harold's secretary).
by Frank Miller
For Heaven's Sake
This film was the first shown in the Museum of Modern Art's festival tribute to film comedy in 1976.