My favorite musical finally arrives on Blu-ray. 1967's How to
Succeed in Business without Really Trying is based on the hit
Broadway play that ran for an impressive 1417 performances, won
eight Tony awards and even a Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama. With a
pedigree like that, it was a no-brainer to bring the production to
the big screen. For the movie adaptation, most of the Broadway cast
reprised their roles and the result is a wonderfully delightful
send-up of the business world.
Walking to work one day, J. Pierrepont Finch (Robert Morse) stumbles
across a book at a newsstand: How to Succeed in Business without
Really Trying. This self-help manual gives step-by-step
instructions on how to climb the corporate ladder quickly and with
the least amount of actual work. A window washer by trade, Finch
decides to give it a try and steps into the offices of the
World-Wide Wicket Company a company, as the book advises, that is so
large no really knows what anyone else is doing. Literally running
into the president of the company, J. P. Biggley (Rudy Vallee),
Finch brashly asks for a job and is dressed down by the important
business man. Undeterred he finds the head of the HR department and
truthfully says that he was just talking to Mr. Biggley and the next
thing you know Pierrepont has a job in the mail room.
Pierrepont also meets a secretary in the company, Rosemary
Pilkington (Michele Lee) who feels sorry for the cute but naive and
innocent Finch. She tries to look after him, but it turns out that
he doesn't need her help. By the end of the day he's gone to the
head of the mail room to being a junior executive. Using guile and
cunning, Finch navigates the corporate world with charm and grace
and always manages to stay one step ahead of his foil, the
wonderfully named Bub Frump (Anthony Teague), who happens to be Mr.
Biggley's nephew. (At one point someone claims that Bud will cry to
Mr. Biggley when things don't go his way. He angrily proclaims that
he will not. He's going to call his mother, who calls her sister,
who calls her husband, Mr. Biggley.) But just how far and how fast
can Finch climb the corporate ladder before something goes wrong?
This musical is a hilarious sendup of corporate America. The songs
by Frank Loesser with the libretto by Abe Burrows are catchy,
energetic, and often funny. They keep the story flowing and add a
lot of fun to the whole production. The play featured staging by Bob
Fosse and most of that was, thankfully, kept for the movie. The one
complaint that could be laid is that the director (David Swift)
didn't open the play up and make use of the sets and locations that
can be employed in a movie, but the film works so well as it is that
it's hard to really fault him.
Robert Morse really does an amazing job as J. Pierrepont Finch. It's
an incredibly difficult role to play because Finch is supposed to be
sympathetic and likeable, but he spends the whole movie doing
unsympathetic things. He lies and cheats to get ahead, not to
mention getting his superiors fired so he can take their places. Yet
Morse is able to add a dose of charm to Finch that makes him
appealing. Whenever Finch runs into an insurmountable obstacle (when
the head of a department, who is using the same book that Finch is,
fires the young go-getter out of hand for example) a small smile
appears on his face whenever he figures out the solution. It's a
mischievous smile, rather than one of malice, and viewers can't help
cheering inside when he avoids another pitfall. The rest of the cast
is good too. Rudy Vallee is wonderful fun as the not-too-bright
president and the company and Maureen Arthur is delightful as Hedy
LaRue, Mr. Biggley's dimwitted but buxom mistress who wants to
become a secretary. Anthony Teague plays Bud Frump with a delightful
flair and Michele Lee humanizes the story as the most realistic
character. A wonderful cast all around.
This film arrives in a standard clear case with two-sided cover art.
The disc is limited to 3000 copies and is region free.
The 2.34:1 image (anamorphic, of course) and encoded at 1080p looks
great. It's a step up from the DVD which looked fine itself. The
movie has a very bright color palate, with bold color making up the
walls and furniture of the sets and these come through nicely.
There's a small amount of natural grain, and the level of detail is
The disc offers the choice either a 5.1 mix or the original stereo,
both in lossless DTS-HD encodes. Both sound very good and are a
delight to listen to. The surround channels don't have much to do in
the 5.1 mix, generally some ambient office noises are thrown to the
rears, but that's all I was expecting.
Twilight Time included a couple of nice extras on this release.
First up is This Book is all That You Need: Robert Morse on J.
Pierrepont Finch where the star of the movie talks about his
career and specifically how he landed the starring role in the
Broadway show and then the movie. A Secretary is Not a Toy:
Michele Lee on Rosemary Pilkington talks with the female lead
about her memories of the show and film. Both are fun and
entertaining and each runs about 15-20 minutes long. There is also
the theatrical trailer for the film and an isolated music score.
Funny, smart, and filled with enjoyable music, this film is a lot of
fun from start to finish. Grab a copy of Twilight Time's limited
edition release while you still can. Highly Recommended.