For Pete's Sake
Opened June 26, 1974
In July 1973, while Barbra Streisand was in London filming her television special Barbra Streisand ... And Other Musical Instruments, it was announced that her next film for Columbia Pictures would be July Pork Bellies. “Barbra will play a cab driver's wife who becomes terribly involved in money matters and other things when she tries to help him, after he's invested in pork bellies on the futures commodities market, in an effort to better their lives,” Barbra's manager Marty Erlichman told the newspapers. “The picture may be shot here in New York, but that hasn't been decided.” [The picture—produced by Erlichman—was not a continuation of her four-movie contract with producer Ray Stark. However, Stark's Rastar Productions produced the film which was distributed by Columbia Pictures. Barbra's four films contracted with Ray Stark were: Funny Girl, Owl and the Pussycat, The Way We Were, and Funny Lady.]
This project was picked after Erlichman considered Freaky Friday and With Or Without Roller Skates for Streisand—both light comedies meant to follow her last two dramatic films Up the Sandbox and The Way We Were.
By the end of August 1973, the columns announced July Pork Bellies was renamed For Pete's Sake and that Michael Sarrazin had been cast opposite Streisand.
Director Peter Yates started shooting For Pete’s Sake in Brooklyn, New York in September 1973. “This film is fun,” he declared. “It was made for fun, we had fun making it. You can tell by the fact we start with cartoons that it’s not supposed to be taken seriously.”
“I’d been very impressed by Barbra in What’s Up Doc?,” Yates said. “I’d wanted to have her hair cut because up until now she’d always had that long, long hair, and she’d always worn—except in What’s Up Doc? —clothes that hid her figure. This is really because Barbra likes to eat, I’m glad to say. But I wanted her to show off her figure because, basically, she has a very good figure. And I also felt she was going to look much younger and much more attractive with a short haircut.”
The short haircut was what brought Streisand and future beau Jon Peters together. “I called myself Henry for the character,” Streisand explained to a magazine. “Short for Henrietta. The hair was perfect—half an inch all over the head. Meanwhile, I got a message from a friend that Jon Peters wanted to meet me.”
Jon Peters elaborated: “When I arrived at her house for the appointment, she kept me waiting for an hour and a half ... I was ready to leave. Then she came down and told me she wanted me to do a wig. I never do wigs. What an insult.”
Streisand ended up wearing a wig in For Pete’s Sake. When the film was over, she was back to wearing her long, straight, blond hair.
“For Pete’s Sake (Don’t Let Him Down)”, the theme song for the film, was composed by Artie Butler with lyrics by Mark Lindsay. Barbra sang the song over the opening credits. A promotional 45-rpm record was sent to radio stations; otherwise, the song has never appeared on a Streisand album or collection.
The subway sequence with the dog was “stolen, of course, entirely from French Connection,” Yates confessed. “If you can do it with a dog, you can do it with anybody, I suppose.”
Production designer Gene Callahan worked closely with Peter Yates to design Henry's apartment set so that doors could open and close and reveal the characters, much like a French farce. For instance, when Pete’s inlaws visit, the audience can see their conversation at the dinner table in the foreground while, at the same time, Henrietta’s reactions in the kitchen can be seen in the background. “Gene’s whole choice of colors was wonderful,” Yates stated.
The sequence in which the cows get loose in Brooklyn was actually shot on the studio backlot. Barbra’s longtime manager and producer of For Pete’s Sake had a cameo in the film. That’s Marty Erlichman in the movie theater commenting on the “reality” of the movies as the steers come crashing through the movie screen.
Michael Sarrazin, Barbra’s costar, recollected: “I’d heard [Barbra] was temperamental, and everyone said she could be a monster, so I was a little scared. But we got along fine right from the beginning. I’d like to think it had something to do with me, but I don’t know. Maybe it was because the picture was a comedy. Whatever the reason, we sure had a lot of fun. We laughed all the time. She has the greatest sense of humor! Really funny!”
Below is a collection of For Pete's Sake Lobby cards — like movie posters but smaller, usually 11" × 14".
There was also a short production feature produced by Robbins Nest called Barbra's Brooklyn, A Funny Place which contained scenes of Streisand and company filming For Pete's Sake in Brooklyn, as well as a satire on famous people who came from Brooklyn.
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