"How to Succeed" is a snappy satire of big business and is one of the most energetic and likeable movie musicals ever. As the story opens, J. Pierpont Finch (Robert Morse) is a poor but very confident window washer; he finds a "how-to" book that can teach him to climb the corporate ladder in no time at all. Ponty follows the book's advice and advances from the mailroom of the World Wide Wicket Company to become its president, falling in love with secretary Rosemary (Michele Lee) along the way.
The movie looks like a staged play, and that's a good thing, since this was such a smash hit on Broadway. It preserves forever the innocence of the early sixties with vibrant colours, secretaries in pillbox hats and gloves, and references to Metrecal and Wildroot Cream-Oil. Above all, it is a joyful celebration of musical talent. Morse originated the stage role of Ponty and this movie made him an even bigger star. He is a great singer and dancer, but it's his larger-than-life personality and toothy charisma that keep you rooting for him. He's simply adorable. Michele Lee is perfect as his leading lady, and Rudy Vallee reprises his stage role as the singing, dancing, and knitting Big Boss. The Frank Loesser songs are staged with the big band sound of Nelson Riddle, and you'll be singing along with the clever tunes that poke endless fun at office politics. This movie will make you smile; it's wonderful.
on 19 September 2010
A bright and breezy and somewhat cynical 1960s musical comedy satire of American big business with lots of energy, some good (but not great) songs and a powerhouse of a central performance, How To Succeed In Business is a pleasant romp that can be enjoyed by everyone but especially appreciated by anyone who has ever worked in an office. Its silly story of a guy who uses a "how to" book to progress from window cleaner to company president is like a modern fairy tale with music, romance, and a bit of sex thrown in.
Leading the way and holding the whole thing together is Robert Morse, reprising his Broadway role as J. Pierrepont Finch in a super star-making performance. Morse's long experience with this character is obvious as he sings, dances, grins, mugs and schemes his way through the film. He is never better than when performing his big number "I Believe In You" - sung to his reflection in the mirror of the executive washroom. (Morse has more recently returned to a big New York office setting in the tv series Mad Men.)
A couple of other players from the Broadway original are also in the film, most notably Sammy Smith (again playing two roles) and veteran crooner Rudy Vallee. Michelle Lee is pert and pretty as Morse's secretarial love interest, Anthony Teague (one of the Jets in West Side Story) is the boss's slimy nephew, and Maureen Arthur provides more than a dash of sex appeal as an inept but well-endowed secretary. But the show really belongs to Robert Morse.
The bouncy songs are by ace tunesmith Frank Loesser (this was his followup to his classic Guys And Dolls). Unfortunately, as so often happens with Hollywood versions of Broadway shows, some of the songs got dropped with gems such as "Coffee Break" and "Paris Original" among the lamented casualties. But the songs that remain are enthusiastically and imaginatively performed, especially the popular "A Secretary Is Not A Toy."
I have heard, but never been able to confirm, that this film was released in France with all the songs removed - that is was shown as just a comedy. If so, it is a good indication of just how strong and funny the script is on its own. It also tells us something about the weirdness of the French.
For the rest of us, How To Succeed In Business remains a fun time to be enjoyed by all. It never takes itself seriously and that is one of its great virtues. Its other assets are colour, laughs, music, slapstick, sex, and - more than anything else - Robert Morse. He was great on stage - he's great in this movie.
on 11 June 2012
If you haven't seen this film, you should! It's an absolute gem of a musical, and it's not shown nearly enough on TV, in my humble opinion. The choreography is brilliant (arranged by the great Bob Fosse), and Robert Morse is wonderful in the lead role. Look out for the fab 60's fashions!
This is a musical which is instantly recognizable as having come from the Sixties in America. The Technicolor is bright with lots of reds and oranges and yellows. The dresses look like Doris Day would be comfortable in them. The hairdos are shiny helmets.
It also is one of the most cynically good-natured satires on business you'll ever hope to see. Young J. Pierpont Finch (Robert Morse) reads a book on getting ahead in business and is inspired to try his luck with the World Wide Wicket Company. Within a day, through affectionate rear-end kissing, ego massaging, opportunism and happy toadying, he has advanced from window washer to mail room clerk to...junior executive. And he's just starting. By the end of the movie he's the chairman, found the love of his life, himself, as well as cute secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Michele Lee), waved the old chairman, J. B. Biggley (Rudy Vallee), into a happy retirement, and shown the door to Biggley's fawning and ambitious nephew, Bud Frump (Anthony Teague).
Along the way we've encountered some of Frank Loesser's funniest songs and some of Abe Burrows sharpest lines. "Last month," says Mr. Twimble, Ponty's mailroom boss, "I became a quarter-of-a-century man." "Oh," says Finch, "that's beautiful, a quarter-of-a-century. How long have you been in the mail room?" "Twenty-five years," says Twimble. "It's not easy to get this medal. It takes a combination of skill, diplomacy, and bold caution".
Loesser's lyrics are funny, sharp-edged but not mean-spirited. Twimble, for instance, explains his philosophy in The Company Way: "When I joined this firm as a brash young man,
"Well, I said to myself, 'Now, brash young man, don't get any ideas.'
"Well, I stuck to that, and I haven't had one in years."
Says Finch: "You play it safe."
"I play it the company way", sings Twimble, "wherever the company puts me there I stay."
"But what is your point of view?," says Finch.
"I have no point of view."
Says Finch: "Supposing the company thinks . . ."
"I think so too."
The hit of the show, I Believe in You, goes like this:
You have the cool, clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;
Yet there's that upturned chin and that grin of impetuous youth.
Oh, I believe in you.
I believe in you.
I hear the sound of good, solid judgment whenever you talk;
Yet there's the bold, brave spring of the tiger that quickens your walk.
Oh, I believe in you.
I believe in you.
And when my faith in my fellow man
All but falls apart,
I've but to feel your hand grasping mine
And I take heart; I take heart
To see the cool, clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;
Yet, with the slam-bang tang reminiscent of gin and vermouth.
Oh, I believe in you.
I believe in you.
A great love song...and Finch is singing it to himself while he gazes into a mirror.
Morse does a terrific job. He's full of energy and charm, even when he's brown-nosing...which he's doing most of the time. It's kind of unsettling to imagine Finch now as the CEO of World Wide Wicket, scratching the stomachs of tame board members so they'll give him a $700 million retirement package, building an $80 million ego mansion for him and his new trophy wife (he traded in Rosemary some years ago), and regaling his CEO buddies with tales of the $10 million birthday bash he secretly got his company's shareholders to pay for. But that's another story.
The DVD picture looks just fine to me. There are no extras.
on 11 January 2008
Why do movie companies persist in issuing DVDs in 4X3 letterbox widescreen, when they should be 16X9 anamorphic widesscreen ie good quality picture, reducing graininess which you will inevitably have with 4X3.
And......can they not come up with a standardised way of describing the format of a DVD, so that purchase isn't such a lottery.