|Directed by|| John Boulting |
|Produced by|| John Boulting |
|Written by||Frank Harvey|
|Starring|| Peter Sellers |
|Music by||Richard Rodney Bennett|
|Edited by||Teddy Darvas|
|Distributed by||British Lion Films (UK)|
Heavens Above! is a 1963 British satirical comedy film starring Peter Sellers, directed by John and Roy Boulting, who also co-wrote along with Frank Harvey, from an idea by Malcolm Muggeridge.It is in much the same vein as the earlier collaboration between Sellers, Harvey and the Boultings, I'm All Right Jack .
A naive but caring prison chaplain, John Smallwood (Sellers), is accidentally assigned as vicar to the small and prosperous English country town of Orbiston Parva, in place of an upper-class cleric (Carmichael) with the same name, who is favoured by the Despard family, who practically run the town and operate a large factory there.
Smallwood's belief in charity and forgiveness sets him at odds with the locals, whose assertions that they are good, Christian people are belied in Smallwood's eyes by their behaviour and ideas. He creates social ructions by appointing a black dustman (Peters) as his churchwarden, taking in a gypsy family, and persuading local landowner Lady Despard (Jeans) to provide food for the church to distribute free to the people of the town.
His scheme spirals out of control and very soon the local traders are up in arms as they have lost all their customers. He tries to explain this to the residents but is besieged in the church hall and only just rescued by the police.
As a face-saving act, the Bishop appoints the 'original' Smallwood to the parish and assigns the 'troublemaker' to the Scottish island of 'Ultima Thule'. He is made 'Bishop of Outer Space' to the British space operations based there. But when the intended pilot of the first rocket gets cold feet, Smallwood takes his place. He is last heard broadcasting a sermon over the rocket's radio.
The cast includes several noteworthy uncredited performers: A Hard Day's Night actor John Junkin, Rodney Bewes, who has a couple of lines as a milkman, and future Small Faces and Humble Pie singer Steve Marriott.Sellers's performance is generally held to be outstanding, in a meatier, more dramatic role, similar to his work in I'm All Right Jack , released in 1959.
The film premiered in London on 23 May 1963 at the Columbia Cinema in Shaftesbury Avenue (today known as Curzon Soho), and although it disappointed the critic for The Times , who found it lacking the mild bite and satire of the Boulting-Sellers film I'm All Right Jack , it became one of the 12 most popular films in Britain in 1963.
An article in Garden History likened the character of the Reverend John Smallwood to that of an 18th-century picturesque guru William Gilpin: "The first act of the new reverend is to invite a group of colourful travellers to reside in the vicarage; the second is to convince an old lady to open her house and grounds to all sorts of poor vagabonds, scruffs and vagrants, characters who bring picturesque values to the noble scene. Eventually, a picturesque economic system based on free donation causes havoc in the village and the nation - the reverend is made a bishop and sent into space, in Britain's first spaceship. The film revives a character that one can safely imagine as a modern version of Doctor Syntax - cordial, dedicated, stubborn, fearless, not reacting against, but slightly diverging from, the established values of his culture."
Like other Boulting films, Heavens Above! satirises contemporary materialistic attitudes and cautiously espouses a socialist ethos, while also showing the possible deleterious side-effects of such ideas, and the all-too-human tendency to take advantage of naive generosity.
John Edward Boulting and Roy Alfred Clarence Boulting, known collectively as the Boulting brothers, were English filmmakers and identical twins who became known for their popular series of satirical comedies in the 1950s and 1960s. They produced many of their films through their own production company, Charter Film Productions, which they set up in 1937.
I'm All Right Jack is a 1959 British comedy film directed and produced by John and Roy Boulting from a script by Frank Harvey, John Boulting and Alan Hackney based on the 1958 novel "Private Life" by Alan Hackney.
John Gregson was an English actor of stage, television and film, with 40 credited film roles. He was best known for his comedy roles.
Private's Progress is a 1956 British comedy film based on the novel by Alan Hackney. It was directed and produced by John and Roy Boulting, from a script by John Boulting and Frank Harvey.
Richard Evelyn Vernon was an English actor. He appeared in many feature films and television programmes, often in aristocratic or supercilious roles. Prematurely balding and greying, Vernon settled into playing archetypal middle-aged lords and military types while still in his 30s. He is perhaps best known for originating the role of Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Kenneth Griffith was a Welsh actor and documentary filmmaker.
The Wrong Arm of the Law is a 1963 British comedy film directed by Cliff Owen and starring Peter Sellers, Bernard Cribbins, Lionel Jeffries, John Le Mesurier and Bill Kerr. It was partly written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson and made by Romulus Films.
William Finlay Jefferson Currie was a Scottish actor of stage, screen, and television. He received great acclaim for his roles as Abel Magwitch in the British film Great Expectations (1946) and as Balthazar in the American film Ben-Hur (1959).
Colin Gordon was a British actor born in Ceylon.
John Harvey was an English actor. He appeared in 52 films, two television films and made 70 television guest appearances between 1948 and 1979.
Mona Lee Washbourne was an English actress of stage, film, and television. Her most critically acclaimed role was in the film Stevie (1978), late in her career, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA Award.
Joan Benham was an English actress best known for her portrayal of Lady Prudence Fairfax in the ITV period drama series Upstairs, Downstairs. She was born in London and was the first cousin of Hollywood actress Olive Sturgess.
Seven Days to Noon is a 1950 British drama/thriller film directed by John and Roy Boulting. Based on the book, Un Nazi en Manhattan, written by Fernando Josseau, Paul Dehn and James Bernard won the Academy Award for Best Story for this film.
Noel Howlett was an English actor, principally remembered as the incompetent headmaster, Morris Cromwell, in the ITV 1970s cult television programme Please Sir!. He was the subject of infatuation by Deputy Head Doris Ewell, played by Joan Sanderson.
Cottage to Let is a 1941 British spy thriller film directed by Anthony Asquith starring Leslie Banks, Alastair Sim and John Mills. Filmed during the Second World War and set in Scotland during the war, its plot concerns Nazi spies trying to kidnap an inventor.
Vernon Campbell Sewell was a British film director, writer, producer and, briefly, an actor.
Nicholas Phipps was a British actor and screenwriter who appeared in more than thirty films during a career lasting from 1938 to 1970. He was born in London and appeared mainly in British comedy films, often specialising in playing military figures. He was also a screenwriter, sometimes working on the script for films in which he acted. Best known for his collaborations with Herbert Wilcox and Ralph Thomas, Phipps wrote some of the most popular British films of all time, including Spring in Park Lane (1948) and Doctor in the House (1954). He retired from acting in 1970. His script for Doctor in the House was nominated for a BAFTA.
Soft Beds, Hard Battles is a 1974 British comedy film directed by Roy Boulting, starring Peter Sellers in several roles, and with an all-star cast, including Curt Jurgens, Lila Kedrova and Jenny Hanley. Sellers reunited with the Boulting brothers for this farce, in which the women of a brothel help the war effort to rid the world of the Nazi peril - in the bedroom.
Brothers in Law is a 1957 British comedy film directed by Roy Boulting and starring Richard Attenborough, Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas and Jill Adams. The film is one of the Boulting brothers successful series of institutional satires begun with Private's Progress in 1956. It is an adaptation of the novel Brothers in Law by Henry Cecil, a comedy set in the legal profession.
Fred Griffiths was an English film and television actor. A former London cabbie and wartime fire fighter discovered by director Humphrey Jennings, and cast in his documentary film Fires Were Started in 1943; and over the next four decades played supporting roles and bit parts in 150 films, including various Ealing, Boulting Brothers and Carry On comedies, before eventually retiring in 1984.