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 fine.
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.