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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

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Two con men try to settle their rivalry by betting on who can swindle a young American heiress out of $50,000 first.

Director:

Frank Oz
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Popularity
3,220 ( 1,137)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve Martin ... Freddy Benson
Michael Caine ... Lawrence Jamieson
Glenne Headly ... Janet Colgate
Anton Rodgers ... Inspector Andre
Barbara Harris ... Fanny Eubanks
Ian McDiarmid ... Arthur
Dana Ivey ... Mrs. Reed
Meagen Fay ... Lady from Oklahoma
Frances Conroy ... Lady from Palm Beach
Nicole Calfan ... Lady in Dining Car
Aïna Walle Aïna Walle ... Miss Krista Knudsen
Cheryl Pay Cheryl Pay ... Lady with Pearls
Nathalie Auffret Nathalie Auffret ... Marion
Lolly Susi Lolly Susi ... Lady in Rolls Royce
Rupert Holliday-Evans Rupert Holliday-Evans ... English Sailor #1 (as Rupert Holliday Evans)
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Storyline

Wealthy native Brit Lawrence Jamieson, living in Beaumont-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, earns most of his money through big cons on wealthy unsuspecting women. With the help of his associates -- corrupt police Inspector Andre, who provides him most of his intel, and his butler Arthur -- he pulls scams such as pretending to be a foreign deposed prince who needs money to finance a secret war to liberate his people. Beaumont-sur-Mer, and thus his world, is invaded by brash American Freddy Benson, another con man whose targets are also wealthy unsuspecting women. Lawrence believes Freddy is the Jackal, a con man whose true identity is unknown but who is known to be working his way through Europe. While Lawrence works on thousands of dollars per scam, Freddy works only on tens or if he is lucky hundreds of dollars. Lawrence's efforts to get Freddy out of his territory are unsuccessful, so when Freddy figures out that Lawrence is a con man like he is, he decides to blackmail Lawrence to ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Nice guys finish last. Meet the winners.

Genres:

Comedy | Crime

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

14 December 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dos pícaros sinvergüenzas See more »

Filming Locations:

Alpes-Maritimes, France See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,840,498, 16 December 1988, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$42,039,085
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Orion Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TV)

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was originally a project for Mick Jagger and David Bowie. After the success of their "Dancing in the Street" video in 1985, studio bosses were anxious to put them in a movie together. Dale Launer was brought in, based on the success of Ruthless People (1986), and asked to submit ideas. Jagger had previously written the title song to Ruthless People (1986), based on his enthusiasm for Launer's script. Launer had seen the original film, Bedtime Story (1964), on television once before, and suggested a remake. Launer acquired the remake rights from one of the original writers, Stanley Shapiro. During development, Jagger and Bowie dropped out of the project, and Martin and Caine were brought in as replacements. According to Bowie, he and Jagger were "a bit tweezed that we lost out on a script that could have been reasonably good". See more »

Goofs

The Greek Millionaire introduced in the final scene is wearing exactly the same black and white stripped shirt as Steve Martin's character in an earlier scene. See more »

Quotes

Lawrence Jamieson: Do you ever have a single thought that originates from above the waist?
Freddy Benson: No!
See more »

Crazy Credits

While the names of Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning appear in the credits as two of this film's three writers, they are actually there just to credit their script for Bedtime Story (1964), of which this is a remake. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Herman's Head: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1992) See more »

Soundtracks

Celui Qui S'en Va
Performed by Marie Myriam
Courtesy of WEA Music France and Laureen Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Dirty + Rotten = Genius
23 December 2003 | by Bill SlocumSee all my reviews

This film made an impression on me before I even saw it. I was in a theater, and a trailer for "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" came on. While a voice-over talked about the value of movies promoting morality and civility, you saw Martin and Caine strolling along a beachfront, smiling beneficently as they greet passers-by. Then Caine shoved cotton candy into a kids face while Martin pushed a woman off a ledge.

It's a great sequence, and is featured on the DVD with its own commentary from director Frank Oz (when has that ever happened before?) but a little misleading. Actually, while both men are scoundrels, neither is quite that vile. Caine's Lawrence Jamieson is actually a bit of an altruist, as we find out, with a code of only taking in people who can afford to be taken, and finding ways of spending the money that are not entirely self-serving. Martin's Freddy Benson is less disciplined and more small-time in his cons; he'll steal candy from a baby and tell you it's for his poor sick Gram-Gram if caught, but he is likeable, too, an underdog with little idea how the game is played at the highest levels, but eager to learn.

The fact you can like these characters is a compliment to Martin and Caine, as well as director Oz and the team of writers. Tone is everything with a film like this, and as Oz says in his commentary, so important in making the comedy work. He notes he was going for a 1950s feel in the picture, I'm guessing with Hitchcock's "To Catch A Thief" in mind. The great score by Miles Goodman is solid enough to deserve its own CD reissue, with an air of light sophistication that buoys the proceedings on screen. Most importantly, since much of the comedy involves people taking advantage of one another, having everything put forward in such a gossamer manner helps you digest the story without leaving a bad taste.

Martin shines in many scenes, especially when playing Ruprecht the idiot man-child and when stuck in jail trying to remember the name of the only man he thinks can bail him out ("James Lawrenceton...no, wait, James Jesterton....no, no, it's definitely, um...") I knew Martin could be funny, and with the exception of "All Of Me" this is probably his best comedic performance, but Caine is a revelation. A straight man, yes, but with delicate timing and some clever characterizations that he pulls out of a bag, like an Germanic psychiatrist with some unusual ideas about curing lameness. You forget how good Caine is in comedy, despite his performances in films like this, "Blame It On Rio," and "Without A Clue." Glenne Headly is a revelation as the woman caught in the middle of Jamieson and Benson's scheming, every bit as good as her male counterparts, but say no more.

Great actors, great tone, but the plot is the best thing this film has. It's a remake of a 1964 film "Bedtime Story," which teamed Marlon Brando and David Niven for what should have been a dream team but went flat instead. This time, the script is helped by actors who can not only deliver funny lines but make them funnier, and by an ending (according to Oz in his commentary, one worked out over several long dinner meetings with Martin) that is simply perfect.

Finally, Oz needs to be recognized. He was only making his second non-Muppet film here, but the result in my view is one of the best comedies anyone has ever done. He manages to get the best from everyone, including the actors and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (some amazing night shots of the French Rivera waterfront you never tire of looking at), and delivers a rare jewel of a film, a laugh-out-loud comedy that leaves you with a warm feeling inside.

Ian McDairmid plays Arthur the butler in this, teaming him with Oz yet again. Almost titled this review "Yoda And Palpatine On The French Riviera;" it's interesting McDairmid plays the one guy in "Scoundrels" who's really on the level.


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