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Dwight Dawson, who runs an unsuccessful success school, stages a contest to find the biggest failure in the USA, for publicity value when the "dope" takes his course. But winner Tad Page is contented with his idle, lazy life and threatens to convert Dawson's other students to his philosophy. Dawson captalizes on Tad's attraction to Claire Harris to win him over; but will Tad find out Claire is really engaged to Dawson? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
...but fun just the same. It is almost escapist entertainment due to the fact that it just ignores the fact that WWII is going on at the time. Don Ameche plays Dwight Dawson, the owner of a school for success in New York City that doesn't really teach anything other than self confidence. Like the Wizard of Oz, he doesn't seem to be passing out anything that people don't have inside already. His business is down, and so he decides to run an ad looking for the biggest failure in America, using it as the basis for a publicity campaign to turn the contest winner into a success via his methods. Even this he does wrong, though, because who he ultimately picks isn't someone who can't get ahead, but someone who is happy with not getting ahead - a guy from Vermont (Henry Fonda as Tad Page) who rents fishing boats in the summer and thinks about summer in the winter.
The prize is five hundred dollars and a course at Ameche's business school. Tad is interested in the five hundred dollars only - he wants to buy a new fire engine for his community. However, he is perfectly happy with his life as it is and is not interested in changing. So now Dawson and his fiancée (Lynn Bari as Claire) have to convince Fonda to go to the classes, prevent him from convincing the other students they don't really need these courses to be happy, and get him to be a success.
A romantic triangle forms, rather predictable comical consequences ensue - Tad Page rubs off more on New York than New York rubs off on Tad Page, and I really never saw how Tad Page was either really magnificent or a dope.
Darryl F. Zanuck, head of Fox studios, was big on message pictures and films with a historical context, and this is a rather rare example of a film done at his studio during his reign that is set in the present day that is not a noir. It's enjoyable stuff with Fonda doing his familiar likable every-man character and with Ameche as the debonair little weasel that you just can't bring yourself to truly dislike - much like a ferret in a tuxedo. A recommended rarity.
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