How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Reviews

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½ August 9, 2016
Entertaining if dated major Broadway musical

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.
October 18, 2015
saw it in theater when it came out. classic. 1st Saw the play starring Robt Morse in LB on Ocean, with KS, about 67. Great musical: Brotherhood of Man.
August 17, 2015
A hilarious musical, even for those who don't like musicals. At once nostalgic and progressive, silly and satirical, fun and funny, this has to be one of my all time favourites. A must watch!
December 28, 2014
I'm not a huge musical fan, so not too many appeal to me, but his one is quite charming. Robert Morse plays a scheming window washer who worked his way up the corporate ladder, featuring many songs and dances along the way. The main suspense of the film is if the company will find out that Morse doesn't really know what he's doing and really isn't working very hard. The film also had an added level of meta fun since Morse is now best known for portraying Bert Cooper of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce on AMC's "Mad Men," itself a 1960s story set in a big company. As an aside, that show actually let Morse's final scene in the show be a musical number that was just wonderful. But back to this film, Michele Lee plays Morse's likable love interest and Rudy Vallee plays the company boss. David Swift directed this lavish musical, but he never really did anything like it again, even though this film was quite successful. He spent most of his career directing forgettable Disney films and TV episodes. If you're a fan of musicals and even if you're not, this film is quite winning an entertaining.
Super Reviewer
½ July 2, 2014
You get the sense the some of the rougher satire in the original stage musical has been smoothed out for more mainstream audiences but what's there is still effective. Although the best reason to see the film is for Morse, whose wonderfully strange performance is the antithesis of what you'd expect from a musical comedy. He makes such consistent offbeat choices that you might wonder why any of the producers left him in the picture if you weren't so glad they did.
September 1, 2013
½ May 28, 2013
Wonderfully quirky!!!
April 8, 2013
Exactly like the Broadway show! Hilarious, entertaining, and clever musical about a dangerously ambitious young man who goes from a window washer to chairman of the board! Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee are purely hilarious and unforgettable thus making the movie unforgettable! Rating: 100%/ Overall: Hilarious and Classic and Masterpiece
April 2, 2013
I knew absolutely nothing of this film going in; just the title. So I was surprised by how misanthropic and standoffish is was. The movie really lives up to its title. It never tries to hide what a terrible person Finch is (or any of the other characters, for that matter). The only reason I gave the movie three stars is because a few of the musical numbers are all right.
½ March 12, 2013
Incredibly funny and very well made.
March 1, 2013
A very entertaining musical, well adapted from a stage play, the mise-en-scene is very good, there are some fantastically coloured sets.
½ February 17, 2013
A fantastic film. While most of the songs aren't the most memorable ever, there are still some winners hidden in the bunch. The strongest thing about this film is the story (surprisingly), and Robert Morse does a pretty great job as our "hero", a devious but joyful and charming window-washer that finds himself quickly climbing the corporate ranks after he comes into possession of a business how-to book. This musical is easily one of my all-time favorites due to it's exuberant and fun nature. Definitely a must-see.
January 16, 2013
This musical was very cute and funny. Not to mention the music was pretty good.
December 25, 2012
I have never seen this on stage, but have heard great things, so I decided to give the movie a shot. I imagine that, as is the case with all musicals, it's better when seen live. I wasn't a huge fan of the film, but I didn't hate it by any means, and some of the musical numbers are definite crowd pleasers.
December 7, 2012
Would like to see at some stage.
November 24, 2012
Watched today on This TV. Husband says the first time he saw it, it ended when the other guy in upper management was reading the same book and fired Finch, and just made a sequel and extended it. I did not agree with him.
November 20, 2012
Morse throws himself into his role with goofy, giddy glee. The rest is mostly forgettable. I really didn't like the songs.
August 17, 2012
Simple but brilliant!!!
½ May 26, 2012
I love this movie what a classic!
March 11, 2012
Morse is such a lovable weirdo, but this is nowhere near as great as the stage version.
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