Wanted: The Missing
'Coffee Break' Scene
This article was written in 1997
A TIP from a Savant reader has begun a search for a missing musical number from United Artists'
1966 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. You wouldn't happen to have a print of it
lying around, would you?
Mr Henry Belot, while writing to Video Savant about another matter in July '97, asked the
... I'd also be curious to know if there's a scene missing from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I saw it in 35mm in Vietnam and then later got access to
a 16mm anamorphic print which some friends and I watched about three times, and I could
swear the Coffee Break number was in the movie. It's on the soundtrack
recording, and the record is obviously from the actual recordings made for the film.
Or is my knowledge of the record playing tricks on my memory of the film?
Mr. Belot's question couldn't have been better timed. Having just located the ending for Kiss Me Deadly this sounded like a sure thing to me - a fast kill. I went to work on the problem in three directions at once:
1) Archivist John Kirk of MGM Worldwide figured that the missing musical number
would occur right at the part of the movie where the secretaries stop combing their
hair long enough to yell 'Coffee break! - Well, it's about time!'. As it plays now,
the film then cuts to J. Pierrepont Finch's first day in the mailroom. John
consulted the continuity script for Succeed, a document that details for lab
people just where in each reel of film scenes and dialog happen. There was no
mention of the missing scene, not even a missing number where the scene ought
to be. But then John took note of the actual length of 35mm reel 2A, the reel
the scene would have been in. It was only 625 feet in length. The rest of the
reels were all around 900 feet, more like the average length of an individual
35mm feature reel. Assuming that reel 2A was short because 'Coffee Break' had
been pulled after the reels were apportioned gave us an idea. John would
contact all the labs (and there are a number of them) around the world where
negatives of Succeed were vaulted, and ask for the lengths of all the reels 2A
to be checked. If one came out longer than 625 feet, we might make a find.
2) I have no Hollywood background in my family, but as it so happens I
worked with the son of one of the producers of Succeed in a Westwood theater
in the early 1970's. He was in high school then, and I really hadn't seen
him at all since about 1976. So I gave him a call. He had his own 16mm print
of the film and was certain that the missing musical number was in it ...
unfortunately, when he finally took the print out and checked it, it wasn't there after all.
3.) In the midst of this, a helpful MGM Home Video employee put me in
touch with David Swift, the producer/director of Succeed. Mr. Swift was
thrilled that I was looking for the footage, and hoped that it would be
restored to the film; his recollection is that it was taken out for the
sake of running time alone. He himself kept none of his films. Because Mr.
Swift lives right here in Santa Monica, we had a lunch together. He
proceeded to floor me with details of his career, which ranged from
writing for Disney in the 40's, creating the famous early TV show Mister Peepers
directing live television in New York, and finally producing and directing
the Hayley Mills films Pollyanna and the original The Parent Trap also for
Most amazing was his account of working as a writer for Tex Avery
at MGM (!!!). I leapt upon this as a great explanation for some of the wild
cartoonish effects in the very-cartoonish Succeed, in particular the
guillotine that literally comes out of nowhere to terminate one of the
executives blocking Finch's corporate progress. Meeting Mr. Swift made
the Coffee Break search worthwhile in itself. A fun tip: David Swift
gave himself a cameo, as the elevator operator, in Succeed: "Make up
your mind, Rosemary!"
As of the present moment, we haven't found COFFEE BREAK. The labs that
checked back with John Kirk reported no suspiciously long reels. My own
son Daniel proved he's a better Film Detective than Savant: when I
described the unseen missing musical number to him, he picked up the
laserdisc cover and said, 'You mean like this?'. If you look at the
key art on the laser, it shows a still of an officeful of employees
apparently begging for more coffee - a scene not in the film we know.
David Swift verified the still (seen at the bottom of the page) as being
from the Coffee Break number.
So - an appeal! Collectors, television stations, archives --- John
Kirk of MGM Technical Services declares amnesty to anyone who brings in
a 16mm or 35mm print or negative of the missing COFFEE BREAK
musical number from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. No
questions asked! Call anytime .... E:mail ... Thank you for your cooperation.
Text © Copyright 1997 Glenn Erickson
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson