How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Big business means big laughs as Robert Morse schemes and scams his way to the top in this bold andbawdy musical that celebrates the Great American Corporate Wayand lampoons it at the same time. With musical supervision by the legendary Nelson Riddle (Pal Joey), this tune-filled comic gem is a goldmine of great Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls) songs, including "I Believe In You," "Rosemary" and "The Company Way." Written, produced and directed by David Swift (The Parent Trap)... More >> How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

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5 Responses to “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”

  • 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 [kissing] 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 graple 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!
    Rating: 5 / 5

  • M. Hart says:

    The 1967 musical comedy “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” is based upon a 1962 Broadway musical of the same name, as well as the similarly titled novel that was written by Shepherd Mead. The story begins with J. Pierpont Finch (Robert Morse) who works as a skyscraper window washer. He finds and begins to read a self-help book entitled “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”. Following advice from the book and while washing windows outside, he sneaks into of an office of the World Wide Wicket Corporation (WWWC). Quickly stripping out of his orange window-washing coveralls, Finch wears a smart business suit beneath and quickly endears himself to the company’s president, J.B. Biggley (Rudy Vallee), one of the secretaries, Rosemary Pilkington (Michelle Lee), as well as a host of yes-men vice presidents. Impressed, J.B. sends Finch to the personnel office to be promptly hired to work in the company’s mailroom. There, Finch meets J.B.’s nephew, Bud Frump (Anthony Teague), who also works for WWWC in the mailroom. Continuing to follow advice from the self-help book, Finch finagles and brownnoses his way up the corporate ladder in record speed and develops a love interest with Rosemary, but not everyone is happy with Finch’s rise within the company. J.B. also hires a very attractive ‘friend’, Hedy LaRue (Maureen Arthur), who has little experience working in an office, but has a lot of experience with men.

    The engaging, original music in the film, which was written by Frank Loesser, includes the songs:

    * “How To” (sung by Robert Morse).
    * “The Company Way” (sung by Robert Morse).
    * “A Secretary Is Not A Toy” (sung by company employees).
    * “Been A Long Day” (sung by company employees).
    * “Rosemary” (sung by Robert Morse).
    * “Grand Old Ivy” (sung by Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee).
    * “I Believe In You” (sung by Michelle Lee).
    * “Brotherhood Of Man” (sung by company employees).

    Though some of the activities shown in “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” are dated and chauvinistic by today’s business standards (and discouraged by the Labor Department and the EEOC), the basic message of the story regarding nepotism, brownnosing, favoritism, scapegoating, affairs between employees, people hired for their appearance, backstabbing and mismanagement within corporations is just as relevant today as it was over 40 years ago. Creative employees are summarily fired for their ideas, others with more corporate clout get those same ideas approved by management. People who went to the right schools or joined the right clubs move up quickly, as well as people who easily agree with superiors and/or dress as well as possible. It’s not what you know, but who you know, how well you brownnose, how good of an appearance you make and how well you avoid trouble that makes one successful in the corporate world.

    Robert Morse is hilarious in the film, as are Rudy Vallee, Maureen Arthur and Michelle Lee. The film was well scripted and the sets are appropriate for a late 1960’s office building. It is likely that the film inspired Michael J. Fox’s 1987 film, “The Secret of My Succe$s”. Overall, I rate the film with 5 out of 5 stars. So sit back, get a bowl of popcorn and see whether you want to do things the company way.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  • D. Goldberg says:

    This is one of the best transfers of a hit Broadway musical to movie musical. Everyone is superb! From Michelle Lee
    to Robert Morse to Rudy Vallee to Ruth Kobart–all re-creating their Broadway Roles! Robert Morse’s brilliant performance alone is worth the price of the dvd. Maureen Arthur’s sexpot defines the word and is hilarious. Okay you can gripe that a few numbers from the Broadway Musical were left out–but overall this is a major success.

    Concerns a window washer who reads a book “How to Succeed in Business” and within about a week, goes from
    mail room clerk to Chairman of the Board . And he get’s the girl in the end.

    Fosse’s Broadway choreography was recreated by an assistant for the film. Frank Loesser’s Score is classic and singable.

    And it shows how using the original Broadway Cast can make a film work incredibly well. (Take note those people who cast Lucille Ball in Mame and Peter O Toole in Man of La Mancha to terrible outcomes)

    I don’t think this film was a huge hit when it came out but it surely deserved to be. I watch it over and over. I sing the songs. It’s a keeper.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  • MZ says:

    This musical transcends time. What was true in the 1960s – and before – is still true today. That is why this musical is a true mockery of the corporate world, which is in turn why it made my musical-mocking husband laugh out loud and physically turn away from the computer to watch.

    Before I bought the DVD version of How to $ucceed, I had seen it performed live. I loved it and subsequently purchased the soundtrack featuring Matthew Broderick.

    So, as you can see, it was with an already deep affection for (and prejudiced mind) that I bought the movie version. It surprised me greatly that this vision of How to $ucceed met up to my already high standards. Only a few songs from the musical were not included. But the movie is 2 hours long, so it was necessary to do some cutting.

    If you like musicals, if you like big business, if you like to make fun of big business, this movie will make you laugh.

    As far as the DVD goes, there were not a lot of special features, which is to be expected from an older film. It did include the trailer, which was amusing in its retro-style, and it’s nice to be able to go back and play the scene of a particular song I liked here and there. The widescreen version really enhanced the film for me, especially when my cats decided to nap lazily on the television and dangle their limbs about while I was watching.

    Good movie!
    Rating: 5 / 5

  • Kona says:

    “How to Succeed” is an energetic and snappy satire of big business. As the story opens, J. Pierpont Finch (Robert Morse) is a poor but ambitious window washer; he finds a “how-to” book that can teach him to climb the corporate ladder in no time at all. Ponty follows the book’s advice and advances from the mailroom of the World Wide Wicket Company to become its president, falling in love with secretary Rosemary (Michele Lee) along the way.

    The movie looks like a staged play, and that’s a good thing, since this was such a smash hit on Broadway. It preserves forever the look of the early sixties with vibrant colors, pillbox hats, and references to Metrecal and Wildroot Cream-Oil. The unique Robert Morse is the whole show here. He originated the stage role of Ponty and this movie made him an even bigger star. He is a great singer and dancer, but it’s his irresistible personality and charisma that keep you rooting for him. Michele Lee is perfect as his leading lady, and Rudy Vallee reprises his stage role as the singing, dancing, and knitting Big Boss. This is a happy, fun movie.

    Rating: 5 / 5


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