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School for Scoundrels
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Reviews & Ratings for
School for Scoundrels More at IMDbPro »

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40 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

Hard cheese! A jolly good show!

10/10
Author: freddievalentine from United Kingdom
17 October 2004

This fabulous film is available on DVD at last, twinned with another Alaister Sim classic, THE GREEN MAN. But, the star of this film is the dapper TERRY-THOMAS. Every scene he is in is superb. From the suave cad in the first half of the film to the flustered toff in the second, this is one of his finest performances and stands up to repeat viewings due to his expressive faces and masterful comic timing.

I hear there is going to be a Hollywood remake of this film, which will be a huge mistake as there has been no one like T-T since. I recommend anyone who is a fan of British comedy to see this classic or you will forever be crying 'hard cheese'!

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36 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

tip-top

Author: ianginge from notts, england
4 July 2003

This is the ultimate Terry Thomas film. He gets to act out being the most wonderful cad, stealing girls off poor saps arms, driving open top sports cars are a furious pace, and generally getting the chance to utter 'hard cheese old boy'. Carmicheal is excellent, bewildered to begin with and slowly learning the dark arts of Upmanship. I implore all to see this film, as always the golden rule is - if a film as Alistair Sim in it, its got to be worth a look. Currently avialable on a 2 film DVD release, with another UK B&W comedy classic. Buy and enjoy.

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34 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

A beautifully funny, nostalgic and fabulously-acted comedy of English moeurs.

10/10
Author: Richard Spurr
23 January 1999

I cannot remember how many times I have watched this film now - it takes me back to a time of charming English etiquette which, being too young, I never witnessed. The range of social situations through which we are taken in the apprenticeship of 'Lifemanship' are hilarious, and in a gentle and exquisitely-understated way. Ian Carmichael is, of course excellent, but my all-time hero, Terry-Thomas, is on the toppest of forms delivering the "Look's like a Polish stomach pump" and "Oh I say, smashing cricket stroke" lines with his unshakeable aplomb. A nostalgic treasure of a film.

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31 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

a neglected gem

10/10
Author: mundsen from New Zealand
17 April 2005

Don't hesitate: this jolly little movie is pretty much impeccable.

An excellent script, which never falters. And a BOFFO cast of British actors. The quintessential role for Terry-Thomas (tho' "Magnificent Men" is a close second).

But also fine turns from Alistair Sim, John Le Mesurier, Hugh Paddick, Peter Jones. Hattie Jacques does an hilarious voice-parody of Joan Greenwood. Janette Scott is VERY good in a thankless "skirt" role; what a charming personality.

Old car fans will love this. The sport-cars and the mocked-up vintage "Swiftmobile" are worth the price of admission alone. (Sadly, the production designer / props chaps are as yet uncredited at IMDb: perhaps the information is lost.) Very nice camera-setups. Amusingly cheesy sets. A really excellent score from John Addison that is up to Georges Auric's standard.

This has a very jolly, intimate ambiance: a sense of small scale. Feels rather like the b&w Tati movies.

Ahem. Unlike many British comedies, I can really see the attraction of remaking this: the material is so damned good that it could use another go-round, without necessarily insulting the original.

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20 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

How To Win Without Actually Cheating !

8/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
20 April 2008

Humilliated in sport,losing his girl to a cad, and always taken advantage of-Henry Palfrey decides enough is enough and enrols himself at the College Of Lifemanship to learn self improvement strategies.

School For Scoundrels is inspired by a trio of parody self-help books written by Stephen Potter called Gamesmanship, Lifemanship & Oneupmanship, with the subsequent result being a deftly charming satire backed up with very knowing comedy. Taking the lead role of Henry Palfrey is Ian Carmichael, tho a star of many funny and successful British comedies, Carmichael is not someone I would normally term as a confident leading man, but here he does well and I think that is probably down to having the ebullient Terry-Thomas to feed off. Terry-Thomas is here in full caddish rapscallion mode as Henry's love rival Raymond Delauney, a devilishly funny character who firmly has us begging Henry to get the better of him come the end. Some delightful laughs to be had here, from the duos tennis matches, to Henry's turning of the tables on an unscrupulous car salesmen. School For Scoundrels is never ever less than a funny movie.

However the film is far from perfect, Alistair Sim isn't given that much to do as Henry's mentor, Professor Stephen Potter, and this ultimately feels like a wasted opportunity. The direction is also pretty patchy, which when I delved further is sadly understandable. Robert Hamer was the perfect choice to direct because nestling on his CV is the majestic Kind Hearts And Coronets. But Hamer was fired shortly after filming began after lapsing back into alcoholism {he would die three years later}, so the film was completed by Hal Chester and Cyril Frankel.

Frayed edges aside tho, School For Soudrels still holds up well today, and when one witnesses the poor standard of the 2006 remake, this 1960 offering is something of a comedic gem to be cherished forever and always.

Hard cheese old boy 8/10

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23 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

An all time favorite

10/10
Author: andrew from washington, D.C.
31 October 2002

I read all the Stephen Potter books and this movie captures their charm and wit perfectly. I especially love how Ian Carmichael, as the fledgling gamesman, gets sweet revenge on the car salesman who dealt him an antique lemon. And just to look at Terry Thomas' twitching moustache and gapped tooth semi-sneer sent me into convulsions. A perfect 10!

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19 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

The English Sense of Humour

Author: adam jezard from Ascot, England
26 April 2003

Stephen Potter's biography tells that, before this happy film version was made, Cary Grant was keen, with American producer Carl Foreman, to make a film about Potter's brilliant (now sadly out-of-print)Oneupmanship books. The problem that confronted Grand and Foreman was that they couldn't find anyway to make the humour "American". In the end they dropped it and this rather Ealing-esque film was made instead. This film is just great fun and a reminder of what British cinema at its best can offer. Thank goodness Grant and Foreman didn't give it the "American" treatment. Thank heavens also for a sterling case, in which Terry-Thomas particularly stands out. Tennis, anyone?

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22 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Classic bit of wicked humour!

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
9 April 2003

When Henry Palfrey meets the lovely young April Smith he thinks he has things good. However a meeting with them and Raymond Delauney sees Palfrey made to look a fool by the caddish Delauney. To counter his wishy washy ways, Palfrey joins the `Lifemanship' school of Mr Potter. Here he learns all the ploys of a cad. Upon completion of the course he sets his sight on Delauney – but can he avoid becoming that which he hates?

Terry Thomas is famous for his lecherous wretch and here he not only plays it to perfection, but also gets out played at his own game. The plot here is in three acts. Firstly the caddish Delauney outplays Palfrey. Second act Palfrey attends the school and finally Palfrey returns to his life a changed man. All three acts play out very well for different reasons, only the end of act 3 drags a little bit but ends well. The gentle comedy of the time runs through it – it is a very English film in its own way. I enjoyed the vast majority of it.

Ian Carmichael appears a weak choice for the lead but his transformation from coward to cad is well played and he was actually very good. Thomas is well cast although this is what he is famous for I suppose. Sim is pretty good but given too little to do and there are some nice little cameos from Hattie Jacques and (even better) John Le Mesurier.

Overall this is very slight but it is also very enjoyable. It isn't hilarious but it is a very enjoyable film with a good sense of wicked humour running through the film.

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17 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Perfect Sunday Afternoon Film

9/10
Author: heyyoubigthumb from Kent, England
26 September 2000

This film is perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon, when you can set back and enjoy a sunny English summer, complete with cads, bounders and unsportsmen like behaviour. Lovely. This is the perfect Terry-Thomas movie, doing exactly what he does best, being suave and impressing the ladies with his nifty sportscar and well waxed moustouche. Tip Top.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Ian Carmichael at his most innocent; Terry-Thomas as his most unctuous; Alastair Sim at his most Simish

8/10
Author: Terrell-4 from San Antonio, Texas
27 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Oh, hard cheese, old man!"

School for Scoundrels, that cheery, malicious comedy of one-upmanship, was based on Stephen Potter's classic of underhanded winning, Gamesmanship - Or How To Win Without Really Cheating, and its follow-up, Lifemanship. (Potter wrote several others, too.) What is lifemanship? "Well, gentlemen," says the avuncular head of school played by Alastair Sim to a new class, "lifemanship is the science of being one up on your opponents at all times. It's the art of making him feel that somewhere, some how, he's become less that you. He who is not one up, is one down."

Getting ready to sign up for the courses is Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael), so nice, so pleasant, so helpful that he usually finds himself either ignored, taken advantage of or walked all over. His employees pay him little attention. He meets April Smith (Janette Scott), an attractive young woman, and invites her to dinner, only to see himself turned into the extra man while that bounder, Raymond Delauney (Terry-Thomas) moves in and takes over. He decides to buy a car to impress April and winds up with a moveable piece of smoking, chugging, wheezing metal courtesy of two smarmy used car salesmen, Dunstan (Dennis Price) and Dudley (Peter Jones) Dorchester. And when he agrees to play tennis at the club with Raymond while April watches them...oh, my. Raymond reduces Henry to an impotent lamb in front of April. "Hard cheese," says Raymond sympathetically, every time he maneuvers Henry into looking foolish and losing a point.

The worm strikes back, however, when Henry signs up for courses at Mr. Potter's College of Lifemanship. There Henry learns all the little gambits that will put him one up...the cough just as his opponent begins to strike the ball at snooker, hearing a joke about a cripple then standing and limping out of the room, the spilled drink on the dress that leads to a bit of solicitous dress drying after the girl takes it off, the apparently well-meaning delays that drive a competitor to distraction, and on. With Professor S. Potter's help, Henry becomes a one-upsman to be proud of. He learns to make his employees nervous, how to deal with used car salesmen, ways to innocently seduce young women, and how to deal with Raymond Delauney. The person who has to grind his teeth and hear "Oh, hard cheese" is now Delauney. It's almost as satisfying as eating a double portion of sticky toffee pudding. Henry's final tennis match with that cad Delauney is the funniest, most satisfying game of tennis I've seen since Billie Jean King slowly dismembered Bobby Riggs.

Is there a lesson for us in all this? Yes, but fortunately it's saved for the very last. And that lesson Henry learns while gazing lovingly at April and telling her he loves her. "We're witnessing the birth of a new gambit," Professor Potter says proudly. No, we're witnessing the moment when love, and the person we love, requires sincerity.

All the one-upman gambits are so outrageous and so familiar, and served up with such good-natured manipulation, that all we can do is sit back and smile. School for Scandal is a witty, almost innocent and sweet-natured movie with a fine, dry script, credited to Patricia Moyes and the producer, Hal Chester. In fact it was written by Peter Ustinov and the blacklisted American writer, Frank Tarloff. Robert Hamer, the director of Kind Hearts and Coronets, is credited with directing. When Hamer, an alcoholic, fell off the wagon half way through, however, the producer immediately fired him, brought in another director, Cyril Frank, and the two of them finished the movie unbilled.

In addition to the script, of course, what makes this movie so funny and memorable are the performances. Terry-Thomas was never better as the unctuous cad who finally gets his. Ian Carmichael plays another innocent with great ineffectual likability, and then comes through for us. And Alastair Sim as Professor S. Potter is a joy. Watching Professor Potter introduce Henry Palfrey to one-upmanship during their first meeting is to watch one of the cleverest examples of Sim's timing and expression you'd ever hope to see. The only sad spot is seeing Dennis Price in a decidedly secondary role and not looking all that healthy.

For many of us, this is a movie to watch while taking notes.

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