• How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: March 14, 2017.
    Director: David Swift
    Cast: Robert Morse, Michele Lee, Rudy Vallee, Anthony Teague, Maureen Arthur
    Year: 1967
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Based on the successful book by Shepherd Mead, and the even more successful musical of the same name, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying hit the big screen in 1967 in an attempt to make some more cash on the brand, bringing along some of the Broadway cast to make the transition. J. Pierrepont Finch (Robert Morse) is a Jerry-Lewis looking window washer looking to improve his lot in life. Fortune smiles on "Ponty" in the form of a self-help book titled, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, at a New York newsstand. Reading while cleaning the windows on the top floor of a huge skyscraper is not the safest of tasks, but it's here that Ponty gets his inspiration from Chapter One, which instructs the reader to find a company so large that nobody working there knows what anyone else does.

    Sliding in through the window of the World Wide Wicket Corporation and shedding his window washing attire to reveal a suit, Ponty finds himself in the midst of mass confusion, a situation perfectly described by his new book. Bumping head-on into the President of WWW, J.B. Biggley (Rudy Vallee) is an unfortunate misstep, but Ponty swings this to his advantage when he name-drops the big man to the Personnel Manager and lands himself a job in the mailroom. Fortune smiles again when the mailroom supervisor is promoted, naming Ponty as his successor after the appearance of some tasty lemon drops and a song and dance, and Ponty again works the situation to his advantage when he turns down the job and recommends J.B's nephew Bud for the job instead. Apparent honesty and integrity doesn't get Ponty a position in the mailroom, but it gets him bumped up to Junior Executive under Mr. Gatch, where he's able to rub shoulders with J.B's secretary, and finally, the big man himself.

    But how far can one book, chance opportunities, and faking Ivy League schooling get a young window washer? Ponty finds himself placed in the position of Executive Personnel Manager and immediately promotes himself to a higher up position, drawing unwanted attention from top executives who feel threatened by the young upstart. As Ponty's schemes get larger and he begins to compromise what little integrity he has, WWW secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Michele Lee) steps in as his moral compass, anxious to see the man that she's fallen in love with come to his senses and stop shooting for the moon. But when a sultry new bombshell of a secretary named Hedy LaRue shows up at WWW, she threatens to drive Ponty further up the ladder, destined for a huge fall.

    It's silly, it's unbelievable, it lacks the satirical edge of its namesake(s), but darned if there isn't a lot to like about How To Succeed In Business Without Trying. As a musical, it's not overdone with music...not until the last act does an overabundance of choreography and singing get to be a little much....but its adaptation from a stage show works to the film's advantage with massive, colourful sets. Everything is big, here, wide open, and bursting with yellows, pinks, pastel blues, and even the sillier scenes like the coffee break sequence are appealing with retro ambience. Swift knows how to work within the frame as well, giving the viewer a lot to look at, and there's nary a dull moment to be found. And while it's light on the lyrics, the score runs throughout the film, providing an all-round pleasant experience.

    Of course, the cast plays a huge part in this, and Robert Morse is clearly the centrepiece, bringing gap-toothed exuberance to each scene, prompting the viewer to genuinely like the character of Ponty. Michele Lee makes a fine Rosemary as well, and Rudy Vallee delivers the big business leader of yesteryear in spades, a character prevalent in everything from Mary Poppins to The Twilight Zone. With a solid cast and a heavy dose of visuals, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying manages to overcome it's more chintzy moments, making the 2-hour runtime fly by.


    Twilight Time brings How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 2.35:1 transfer that looks very pleasing. Aside from some minor speckling in the beginning, the visuals are clean and adequately defined, with no issues. The range of tones on display are quite nice, and at times, the retro colour palette seems to pop off of the screen. Some softness was noted, but nothing to detract from the picture. It's a nice looking transfer that does the film justice.

    Three Audio Tracks are available. An English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track sounds very punchy and appropriate, but the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track really opens up the soundstage to give those musical numbers and the score some more room to breathe, though not necessarily better than the stereo option. Both are perfectly suitable and largely free of issue, and choice will come down to individual preference. The soundtrack does show it's age here and there with some minor distortion and tinniness, but these are otherwise solid efforts. As is the usual with Twilight Time, a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is also available for an Isolated Score (and some effects) listening experience.

    English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing are available.

    This Book Is All That Your Need: Robert Morse on J. Pierrepont Finch (19:00) is a HD supplement that consists of Robert Morse discussing the beginning of his acting career in New York City, and more specifically, the success of How To Succeed In Business on stage. He also talks about his challenges with learning dance steps, and Director David Swift's enthusiasm in bringing the stage show to the big screen, and his inclination to stick with the script used on Broadway.

    A Secretary Is Not A Toy: Michele Lee on Rosemary Pilkington (16:21) is another HD supplement that features the actress talking about working with Morse, working in film versus working on stage, and her memories of JFK's assassination, among other things.

    A Trailer is also included for the film, as well as the Twilight Time Interactive Catalogue and essay booklet by Julie Kirgo.

    The Final Word:

    A colourful, whimsical, not-too-heavy-on-the-musical musical, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying is a lighthearted look at big business in the 60's with some amusing performances. Twilight Time's release looks and sounds solid, and provides some moderately interesting extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!