| John Boulting
| John Boulting
| Peter Sellers
|Richard Rodney Bennett
Charter Film Productions
|British Lion Films (UK)
Heavens Above! is a 1963 British satirical comedy film directed and produced by John and Roy Boulting, and starring Peter Sellers. It was written by John Boulting and Frank Harvey, from an idea by Malcolm Muggeridge.
A naive but caring prison chaplain, John Smallwood, is accidentally assigned as vicar to the small and prosperous English country town of Orbiston Parva, instead of a cleric with the same name who is favoured by the Bishop who wants to maintain the support for the church of the Despard family, who practically run the town and operate a large factory there.
Smallwood's belief in the practical application of 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 as his churchwarden, taking in a family being evicted from their illegal encampment, and persuading local landowner Lady Despard 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 "correct" Smallwood to the parish and assigns the "troublemaker" to the Scottish island of "Ultima Thule" and makes him "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 hymns over the space capsule's radio.
The film premiered in London on 23 May 1963 at the Columbia Cinema in Shaftesbury Avenue (later the Curzon Soho).
It was one of the 12 most popular films in Britain in 1963.
The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "Way off target as a satire, the Boultings' latest effort is remarkable chiefly for the amount of schoolboy smut it manages to incorporate, and for the nastiness of its view of people. Buñuel castigates mankind because he is urgently concerned for it; Heavens Above! despises everybody just about equally, even its heroes. Matthew, the 'liberally' conceived coloured man, for example, is presented insultingly (through no fault of the actor) as one of those simpleminded, hymn-singing innocents with water-melon smiles. The whimsical ending; the crude caricaturing in most of the characterisation; the aimless lashing out at everything in sight; the sentimental imagery of an angelic child and a forlorn teddy-bear to point up Smallwood's message of charity and the barren ground in which it has fallen – all point to real desperation. Half-a-dozen funny lines, an excellent performance by Peter Sellers, and good ones from Isabel Jeans, Cecil Parker and Brock Peters, don't take the film very far"
The Times found it lacking the mild bite and satire of the Boulting-Sellers film I'm All Right Jack
An article in Garden History likened the character of Smallwood to that of the 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."
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 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 founded in 1937.
William Miles Malleson was an English actor and dramatist, particularly remembered for his appearances in British comedy films of the 1930s to 1960s. Towards the end of his career he also appeared in cameo roles in several Hammer horror films, with a fairly large role in The Brides of Dracula as the hypochondriac and fee-hungry local doctor. Malleson was also a writer on many films, including some of those in which he had small parts, such as Nell Gwyn (1934) and The Thief of Bagdad (1940). He also translated and adapted several of Molière's plays.
William Combe was a British miscellaneous writer. His early life was that of an adventurer, his later was passed chiefly within the "rules" of the King's Bench Prison. He is chiefly remembered as the author of The Three Tours of Doctor Syntax, a comic poem, illustrated by artist Thomas Rowlandson's colour plates, that satirised William Gilpin. Combe also wrote a series of imaginary letters, supposed to have been written by the second, or "wicked" Lord Lyttelton. Of a similar kind were his letters between Swift and "Stella". He also wrote the letterpress for various illustrated books, and was a general hack.
William Sawrey Gilpin was an English artist and drawing master, and in later life a landscape designer.
William Gilpin was an English artist, Church of England cleric, schoolmaster and author. He is best known as a travel writer and as one of those who originated the idea of the picturesque.
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.
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.
Mutz Greenbaum, sometimes credited as Max Greene or Max Greenbaum, was a German film cinematographer.
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.
The Family Way is a 1966 British comedy-drama film produced and directed by John and Roy Boulting, respectively, and starring father and daughter John Mills and Hayley Mills. Based on Bill Naughton's play All in Good Time (1963), with screenplay by Naughton, the film began life in 1961 as the television play Honeymoon Postponed. It is about the marital difficulties of a young newlywed couple living in a crowded house with the husband's family.
Only Two Can Play is a 1962 British comedy film directed by Sidney Gilliat starring Peter Sellers, Mai Zetterling and Virginia Maskell. The screenplay was by Bryan Forbes, based on the 1955 novel That Uncertain Feeling by Kingsley Amis.
British Lion Films is a film production and distribution company active under several forms since 1919. Originally known as British Lion Film Corporation Ltd, it entered receivership on 1 June 1954. From 29 January 1955 to 1976, the company was known as British Lion Films Ltd, and was a pure distribution company.
Isabel Jeans was an English stage and film actress known for her roles in several Alfred Hitchcock films and her portrayal of Aunt Alicia in the 1958 musical film Gigi.
On the Beat is a 1962 British comedy film directed by Robert Asher and starring Norman Wisdom, Jennifer Jayne and Raymond Huntley.
Margaret Brackenbury Lacey was a British character actress and ballet teacher. She appeared in over 30 films between 1957 and 1985, usually playing a sweet old lady or motherly figure in minor roles.
Doctor in Distress is a 1963 British comedy film directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Dirk Bogarde, James Robertson Justice, and Samantha Eggar. It is the fifth of the seven films in the Doctor series. After a one-film absence, it was the final return to the role of Simon Sparrow by Dirk Bogarde, and also the return of Donald Houston. The film uses some of the characters in Richard Gordon's Doctor novels, but is not based on any of them.
William Nicholas Foskett Phipps was a British actor and writer who appeared in stage roles between 1932 and 1967 and more than thirty films between 1940 and 1970. He wrote West End plays, songs and sketches for revues, and film scripts.
Olive Sloane was an English actress whose film career spanned over 40 years from the silent era through to her death. Sloane's career trajectory was unusual in that for most of her professional life she was essentially an anonymous bit part actress, and her best, most substantial roles did not come until relatively late in her career when she was in her 50s. Her most famous film appearance is the 1950 production Seven Days to Noon.
Soft Beds, Hard Battles is a 1974 British comedy film directed by Roy Boulting, starring Peter Sellers, 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.
Frederick David 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.