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Saturday, March 13, 2021

Fifty Years of Film in 50 weeks, #6: For Heaven's Sake, 1926

"Fellers, if this guy can preach like he can hit, it's gonna be a tough season for Satan."

For Heaven's Sake (1926)

Director: Sam Taylor
Writers: Ted Wild, John Grey, and Clyde Bruckman
Cinematographers: Walter Lundin
Producer: Harold Lloyd (uncredited) for the Harold Lloyd Company; distributed by Paramount
Starring: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Noah Young

Why I chose it
Two reasons, really. The first is that I had sadly neglected Harold Lloyd's films when I developed a strong interest in silent comedy and watched every extant film from Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Second, during a somewhat stressful week, a comedy appealed more strongly than it ordinarily might.

'No-spoiler' plot overview
J. Harold Manners (Harold Lloyd) is a wealthy, spoiled, but eternally optimistic young man from "Uptown" of a large city, who accidentally makes a grant to establish a Mission in the rough "Downtown" neighborhood. In trying to get his name off the Mission's marquee, he begins to soften when his heartstrings are tugged by the Mission founder's charming, pious young daughter, Hope (Jobyna Ralston). Trying to make a good impression, Harold is pressed to get a gang of pool hall toughs into the Mission, leading them on a zigzag chase through the streets with this ulterior motive. Sequestered in the Mission, the gang fends off the attention of the beat cops, who are out to apprehend some petty thieves. Later, a series of further misadventures threatens to derail his wedding to Hope, catalyzed by Harold's snooty uptown friends' efforts to prevent him from marrying below his station.

Production Background and 1926 in Film History
Nebraska-born Harold Lloyd made over 200 films in his career, from the second decade of the 20th century to about the mid 1930s. As bankable box-office, Lloyd used his business acumen, understanding of the medium, and his own comic charisma to consistently build his audience. Like his contemporaries Keaton and Chaplin, Lloyd eventually founded his own company and wielded creative control over nearly all aspects of film production. For Heaven's Sake came after two of his most famous films, The Freshman, and Safety Last; but apparently Lloyd didn't like the film, at least partly because he had to rework the script from a version deemed too expensive to film. Yet it was highly successful, becoming the 12th highest grossing film of the silent era, beating out any of Lloyd's other films. 

Some other notable film-related events in 1926*:

  • The first surviving feature-length animated film was released (The Adventures of Prince Achmed) in Germany.
  • Future star John Wayne made his debut feature film appearance as an uncredited football player in the college comedy-drama, Brown of Harvard (1926).
  • Screen sensation Rudolph Valentino died at the young age of 31, sparking hysteria among his legions of fans. 
  • Major studios were ramping up efforts to produce commercially viable sound films, such as the Warner Bros. Vitaphone technology and Fox's Movietone technology.
  • Buster Keaton released The General
My Random Observations
  • Perhaps Lloyd wasn't crazy about the film, and the gags were reworked from earlier films or inspired by Chaplin or Keaton, but minute for minute I had a heck of a ride with it - I don't think my broad smile ever left my face during the 58-minute running time.
  • Apparently the original film script had Lloyd playing his usual "boy-next-door" type. The change was in the film's favor, in my opinion; I loved Lloyd playing this rather clueless millionaire - he cut a dashing figure, and his costumes and posing just added to the laughs.
  • I find Jobyna Ralston a delightful, charming actress and the perfect partner for Lloyd, even though I've only seen her in this one and in The Freshman. I know Lloyd married another of his leading ladies, Mildred Davis, who was also wonderful, but Ralston stands out for me. 
  • Did police routinely have shoot-outs on busy streets with motorists riding in open-top vehicles?? This early scene was funny for its absurdity, but I was reminded of scenes in many early films, both comedies and dramas, in which cops didn't think twice about pulling out guns on streets crowded with bystanders and fire multiple times at escaping suspects from quite a distance. Did this really happen in the first half of the 20th century? I need to research police practices a bit.
  • The physical gags and use of crowds of extras reminded me of some of Buster Keaton's best work (like his short Cops). All very well done and no trick shots.
  • So many of the bit players and likely extras cast as the toughs and vagabonds were so well-costumed and made up, adding to the verisimilitude of the production. (See images below).
  • Speaking of bit players, here's a shout-out to Steve 'Broken-Nose' Murphy (1876-1953), who I recognized from his roles in some of Chaplin's and Keaton's films. If Central Casting was called to produce a rough-looking dude with a smashed-in nose, Murphy was your guy!


Money flows like water for our uptown hero.

He wrecked his white car, so he'll write a check for a new one.

Harold asking Brother Paul (Paul Weigel), Mission founder,
what he's gotten himself into.

Cherubic Hope (Jobyna Ralston)

It doesn't seem like a good idea for a cop, or anyone else,
to fire a gun from an open top moving vehicle on a busy street.

"Roughneck" Noah Young is Harold's chief antagonist, 
and is king of the angry pantomime!

The hilarious crowd chase scenes stack one on top of another.

I love these bit players reluctantly sharing a hymn book to 
avoid exposure to the cops.

Even the head beat cop joins in the singing.

Harold struggles to get a group of drunks onboard a streetcar.

Where to Watch
Once again, YouTube comes through. This was a nice quality print with the Robert Israel score, which was also featured on the DVD from New Line Cinema.

Further Reading: Fellow blogger friend Laura G. also loved this film. Read her review here.


  1. Aww, this looks cute! Another to add to my watch-this list...

    1. It is super cute. And it's only an hour - it's worth it! Thanks for reading, H. :-)