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In this film version of the 1960's Broadway musical that won 7 Tony
Awards, Robert Morse (Tony winner) plays J. Pierpont Finch, a New York
City window washer, who takes the advice of a how-to-succeed book, and
quickly ascends the corporate ladder.
This is one of the best musicals ever made. The songs are forceful and original. The dialogue is sharp-witted. The plot is a hoot. The pace is brisk. And the casting is perfect. In addition to a superbly funny Morse, the film features talented Michele Lee, and the great Rudy Vallee. Of special mention is Maureen Arthur. She is hilarious as the curvaceous (39-22-38), but vacuous secretary, Miss Hedy LaRue. In one scene, Finch asks her if she can type fast; her self-confident response: "like a jack rabbit, 12 words a minute".
Underneath the humor, "How To Succeed In Business ..." is, of course, a scathing indictment of corporate culture. The film also takes a gleefully irreverent jab at pop-psychology books.
The visuals look dated now, with those awful 60's hats and hairdos, and that bright orange, yellow, and red decor; yet, even that is part of the film's charm.
"How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" is wonderfully entertaining. And its biting social commentary is as timely now as it was in 1967.
One of the great satirical, musical comedies of the 60s. Robert Morse in the lead role is not unlike a sophisticated version of one of the Jerry Lewis characters of the same era - with the exception that he sings. And, he sings some wonderfully witty songs that must be very close to the bone in companies that take themselves too seriously. Sammy Smith is superb in his dual roles as the quarter of a century mail room head who "plays it the company way" and then later as Chairman Wally, the ex window washer. The lyrics will never date, along with the hammy caricatures of the self serving executives and staff. Not all stage musicals have translated well to the screen but How to Succeed is a noteworthy exception - highly recommended.
Except for four songs being dropped and a slight altering of the original
story's pacing, this is a flawless translation of a Broadway classic to the
big screen, making great use of New York locations and retaining Robert
Morse in the best role of his entire career as the ambitious window washer
J. Pierrepoint Finch who climbs his way up the corporate ladder by every
little trick in a book that the musical takes it's title from. Morse's
timing and delivery is perfect and everyone who's played the part of Finch
since on Broadway (most notably Matthew Broderick a few years back) have had
to emulate his basic approach to the part.
Michele Lee is also perfect as the secretary Rosemary who is madly in love with Finch. Her sexy solo of "I Believe In You" (a vast improvement over the stage's "Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm") makes you wish she hadn't given up Broadway for TV success because she has one of the best singing voices you'll ever hear.
I've lived in the Metropolitan New York area all my life but the first musical I ever saw was the revival of How to Succeed in Business with Matthew Broderick in the title role. This prompted me to purchase the original musical with Robert Morse and I was not disappointed. My wife preferred the live musical, however what attracted me to the video was the performance of Rudy Vallee as Mr Bigly. Frank Loesser's score is marvelous, I think that the song "The Company Way" is a humorous parody of those corporate types who risk nothing that will damage their careers. This video is one that I've watched over and over and I can recommend to any musical lovers other than ardent feminists who might be turned off by the 1960s type relationships between the men and women.
I saw this movie on a local PBS station for the first time since it originally came out in the movies. I was only 10 at the time so I didn't get it and I remember not being crazy about it. ALthough the song "I believe in you" was a favorite of mine. I actually looked at the TV schedule to see what else was on. And I vowed to change the channel at 12, the coming hour. But a funny thing happened, I forgot about the other movie and I remained glued to the screen and saw it to the end. The movie is about a window washer who pledges to become a CEO within a short time by reading a "How To Book", hence the title. How delightful to see Michelle Lee singing..what a voice. I didn't remember her singing I Believe in You. Then we have Robert Morse. I was never a big fan of the slap stick comedy ala Jim Carrey Chevy Chase and Robin Wiliams. Robert Morse could give them all a few lessons on playing broad comedy without going over board. Rudy Vallee and the man who played Big Deal in West Side Story (one of my favorite musicals) were hilarious. He was the nephew of the CEO Vallee so we all know what type of character he was playing. We also have the CEO's bimbo girlfriend who wants to get out of the Secretary pool. She actually is not as dumb as we are suppose to think she is. It was a very upbeat funny movie. And for some reason I believe a lot of people in the business world probably know even less then the Robert Morse character, a window washer Maybe they should read the same type of book he was reading. This musical actually would be good if it was just the story. The book could stand on its own. I felt the same way about Carousel. Which deals with very serious issues. The music adds to the story which IMO separates a OK musicals from a great musical. This is a great musical. Oh beware a few songs were cut for the film. The Broadway musical was almost 3 hours, as a lot are. They have intermissions on Broadway. So they cut musical numbers from movie musicals. They did that with Guys and Dolls, one of the great songs at that. HTSIBWRT they cut the Coffee break scene, a great scene. So just as a caution to people who look at movie versions of Broadway musicals. Don't expect to see/hear all of the songs. It's a dumb practice because there are movies made now which are running 3 hours which have a whole lot less going for them then a Broadway musical.
This was one of the rare Broadway musicals whose book is actually more interesting than its score. So while roughly a half-dozen Frank Loesser songs from the stage version are deleted, they're not really missed. What survives is a witty skewering of office politics, featuring much of the Broadway cast. And while such '60s business staples as rampant sexism and smoking now look quaintly offensive, the gleeful satirizing of backstabbing and skulduggery in business will always be relevant. David Swift, whose training was in TV, doesn't do much with the widescreen format (except for the ingenious ballet-mechanique in "A Secretary Is Not a Toy"), but he cuts cleverly away from the production numbers just as the musical-comedy silliness is on the verge of becoming embarrassing, and he splices in some delectable location shots of '60s New York. The color scheme is bright, the pacing brisk, the cast friendly, the production values refreshingly modest. At a time in movie history when so many adaptations of stage hits were overbudgeted and overlong, what a pleasure to see something to faithful to its source material -- and so unpretentious.
I've loved this for over twenty years but I had feared it had become dated. I recently watched it again with someone I know who works at Disney. He'd never seen it before but he screamed, "TRUE!" when he wasn't howling with laughter throughout. And this was nearly forty years later!
I just watched HTSIBWRT on DVD with my sons (14 and 11), both of them said that is was the best movie they have seen in a while (including Spiderman). Funny, great songs and Frank Loesser lyrics can't be beat. The 60's sets are terrific, the bright colors echo the optimism of the film.
What a great musical! Too bad only one song made the hit parade( I Believe in You) Michelle Lee's singing voice has the depth and range of Barbara Striesand....wish we could have heard more of it. Rudy Vallee was a gem...topped off a remarkable career --the Elvis of the 1920s! Get the DVD....it's a beautiful transfer!
One of the most often overlooked movie musicals of the 1960s is also
one of the most successful: the screen version of the Broadway smash
HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, which delivers a
sharp comic rap across the corporate knuckles in its tale of a nobody
(Robert Morse) who uses a self-help book to rocket up the corporate
ladder--and by the time our hero reaches the heights, romantic
complications leads him to wonder what price corporate success.
Although the business world has changed quite a bit since 1967, SUCCEED is so dead-on with its attack that even modern corporate leaders will be bloodied from the fray. The company is just large enough so that no one knows what is actually going on, leadership cries out for creative solutions then promptly fires any one who shows a talent for it, and promotion doesn't hinge so much upon ability as it does upon sucking up, backstabbing, and looking like you know what you're doing. There are jabs at dressing for success, the idea that employees don't engage in sexual hankypanky, hidden nepotism, and the importance of belonging to the "right" clubs. And along the way our hero meets the classic business crowd: the company man, the bombshell secretary, the boss' nephew, and a host of largely incompetent yes-men VPs.
The film is very stylized, making no pretense at naturalism per se, and the cast follows suit, playing in a way that blends beautifully with the self-boosting and jingoistic tone that pervades the piece. Robert Morse gives a truly brilliant performance in the lead--and one wonders why Hollywood so seldom used him in later years; Michele Lee, as the secretary who befriends him, is equally fine, and the supporting cast is wonderful all the way around. The musical numbers (which includes such numbers as "The Company Way," "A Secretary Is Not A Toy," "It's Been A Long Day," and "Brotherhood of Man") are remarkably sly and memorably performed. All in all, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING is sure to appeal to any one who has had the misfortune to grapple with the idiocies of corporate America--and it will almost certainly outrage every "company man" on your city block. Strongly recommended, but make sure you get the widescreen version; pan-and-scan doesn't cut it on this one! Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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