How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Reviews
This film has quite a history behind it. In 1953 author Shepherd Mead published a satirical Machiavellian "manual" for success in the corporate world. Other authors turned it into a play which never got produced, Finally it was converted to a musical by Broadway musical producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin, who had had a hit with Guys and Dolls (if you've seen both films, you'll notice definite stylistic similarities between them.) The resulting musical was a Broadway hit, going through many performances, starring Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee. And in 1967 the musical was brought to the screen in somewhat revised form, featuring many members of the original stage class, including Morse and Vallee.
The plot concerns a young window washer (Morse) who by applying the principles in the manual manages to get a job at a huge New York corporation and in a few days work himself up from the mail room to the executive suite, forming a close but ambivalent relation with the big boss (Vallee) and a love affair with one of the secretaries. This plot provides a framework for much sly criticism of the ethics, or lack thereof, of the corporate world, as well as pegs for the numerous highly polished song and dance numbers.
This is basically a classic major Broadway musical, and those who like that genre will certainly want to see it. The customs of the corporate world seem quite dated now, especially the clearly subordinate role of secretaries, though some might call the film's criticism of the way male executive crassly exploit them a sort of proto-feminism. Strengths are Morse, who is a fine comic actor, and Vallee, who is memorable as the tyrannical but fussy chief executive; his character's continuing obsession with his youthful college days at "Old Ivy University" is to an extent a parody of Vallee's own public image.
The film has its dull patches and is maybe a bit too long, but the fine acting and consummately professional singing and dancing keep it from being tedious. No advisories, except occasional minor language and much fairly innocent by current standards sexual innuendo. I saw it on the Warner Home Video 2002 standard DVD, which was of acceptable image and sound quality. There's also a 2007 Warner Classic Musicals DVD which I assume is the same reissued. This film really needs to be remastered and put on Blu-Ray.