Compassionate small-town lawyer Richard Clarke moves to New York City to seek his fortune, but is unsuccessful until he takes a friend's advice and tries to convince the world he's a ...
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Compassionate small-town lawyer Richard Clarke moves to New York City to seek his fortune, but is unsuccessful until he takes a friend's advice and tries to convince the world he's a ruthless heel. Suddenly he's the most popular lawyer in town -- but he could lose his fiancée. Written by
Kevin Ackley <email@example.com>
Having directed Jack Benny's finest screen performance in To Be or Not to Be (1942), the legendary Ernst Lubitsch oversaw retakes of this later film between early November and November 10, 1942. Writer Morrie Ryskind, who had worked on the early stages of the screenplay, was brought back to create new dialogue for the retakes. Neither contributor received an opening credit. See more »
"The Meanest Man in the World" has a misleading title ... at least for audiences here in Britain where, if a person is called "mean", it means that he's a cheapskate. When I saw that this film starred Jack Benny (who usually played cheapskates), I assumed that the title referred to his legendary tightwad antics. I was wrong. In "The Meanest Man in the World" (based on a play by George M. Cohan), Jack Benny plays a nice-guy lawyer who's broke all the time because he hasn't any clients. When he picks up the phone in his law office to make a call, the Accounts department of the phone company is on the other end to turn off his service for non-payment.
This movie raises an interesting point: namely, that nice people are often much less successful than S.O.B. types. When nice-guy Benny decides to pretend to be a meanie, his law practice starts getting more clients. But in order to become a real success, Benny will have to become a real meanie. Is it worth it?
This movie is basically a character study. It isn't a flat-out comedy like most of Benny's starring films, so don't expect too many laughs. Eddie Anderson ("Rochester") plays Benny's factotum assistant here, but their relationship here isn't quite like Rochester's relationship with "Mister Benny" in their radio show.
There's one funny gag. Benny's one-man legal practice is in an office building full of law firms. When an ambulance drives past the building with its siren blaring, Benny hands his business card to Rochester and orders him to follow that ambulance. As Rochester rushes out into the hallway, all the doors of all the law offices open, and all the lawyers come running out with their own business cards!
Anne Revere (a talented actress whom I never liked, somehow) is wasted here in a poor role. The romance between Jack Benny and Priscilla Lane isn't believable, especially as Lane is far too young for him. "The Meanest Man in the World" was a popular stage play, but this film version has very little to recommend it. I'll rate this movie 3 points out of 10, only because I'm a Jack Benny fan.
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