Cast & Crew
The Boy is a rich idler and ardent suitor of The Girl, whose father advises him to make a name for himself if he wishes to become his son-in-law. After joining the Navy, he is invited by The Girl to take a cruise on her father's yacht and returns to the recruiting station to cancel his enlistment--but is too late. Stationed on a dreadnought, he reaches Khairpura-Bhandanna, where he is granted shore leave and meets The Girl, who has arrived in the same port. The Girl is kidnaped by natives on the island, and after a series of futile attempts to enter the palace of the Maharajah, he daringly rescues her. Called back to duty, he proposes to The Girl, and she accepts.
A Sailor-Made Man
From the start, the film had been conceived on a large scale. The plot concerned a young millionaire who joins the Navy to prove to his sweetheart's father that he can make something of himself. He does so just in time to rescue the girl when she's kidnapped by an evil maharajah. All this required filming on a grander scale than Lloyd and his producer, Hal Roach, had previously attempted. For early scenes at Lloyd's country club, they shot on location at the lavish Beverly Hills Hotel. The shipboard scenes were filmed on the U.S.S. Fredrick, with actual sailors as extras. For the scenes in which Lloyd sneaks into the royal palace to rescue his leading lady, they used Roach's sound stages at Culver City.
But it wasn't the sets that made the film longer than usual. It was Lloyd's gags. He and his writers kept coming up with great ideas for routines involving his profligate ways, his enlistment, his gradual coming of age at sea and, most importantly, the daredevil rescue. After pole vaulting into the castle, he dons a variety of disguises and pulls numerous tricks to elude the guards and get to the girl. When it became apparent that the film would be longer than the customary 20-minute running time of most silent shorts, Roach decided they should just go ahead and shoot everything they had come up with. They could always cut what didn't work after the previews.
When they previewed A Sailor-Made Man, however, everything worked, so they kept it all in. The releasing company, Pathe, which had only contracted for a short film, was so impressed they paid Lloyd and Roach more than their contract demanded. The success of the gags and the film's ability to hold an audience for 40 minutes are largely due to Lloyd's perfectionism. Actress Jobyna Ralston -- who would become Lloyd's leading lady when he married this film's star, Mildred Davis -- was just starting her career when she got a bit part in A Sailor-Made Man that gave her a chance to observe Lloyd firsthand. In a 1926 interview, she described how he took more than five hours on one shot that would last less than a minute. Thinking he's defeated a crew of enemy soldiers single-handedly, he sits on their unconscious bodies and casually lights a cigarette. For over five hours, he experimented with different places to sit, different camera angles, different places to light the match and even different ways of holding the cigarette until he got it just right.
Thanks to all that hard work, A Sailor-Made Man became a huge hit with critics and fans. The film premiered on Christmas Day 1921 and took in almost half a million dollars at the box office on an investment of just $77,000. Lloyd was thrilled with his move into longer films, later saying, "I felt at last that I had arrived somewhere." But he was also well aware that at 40 minutes the film barely qualified as a feature. In later years, he would refer to his next film, Grandma's Boy (1922) as his first feature length movie, describing A Sailor-Made Man as his last short film.
Producer: Hal Roach
Director: Fred C. Newmeyer
Screenplay: Hal Roach, Jean Havez, Sam Taylor, H.M. Walker
Cinematography: Walter Lundin
Music: Robert Israel
Principal Cast: Harold Lloyd (The Boy), Mildred Davis (The Girl), Noah Young (Rough-House O’Rafferty), Dick Sutherland (Maharajah), Leo Willis (Recruiting Officer), Gus Leonard (Lawyer), Jobyna Ralston (Extra).
by Frank Miller
A Sailor-Made Man
This film was previewed at four reels with the intention of cutting the time to a more conventional short after the audience's evaluation. However, the audience reacted so well to the entire length that Lloyd decided to leave the film as is, thus becoming his first feature length comedy by accident.