School for Scoundrels
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In the 1950s, America was periodically entranced by consecutive series of amusing and light-weight books of English social observations and "philosophy." There was, for example, C. Northcote Parkinson's "Parkinson's Law." Parkinson was a perfectly respectable naval historian who had noticed that as the number of ships in the Royal Navy had decreased after World War II, the number of people to support them, most particularly admirals, had increased. His "Law" was simply that work expanded to fill time and he provided many hilarious examples from contemporary British life to prove it. He followed that book up with a second one that was nearly as successful, called "In-laws and Outlaws." It was about, well, in-laws and outlaws. Someone else produced books on "U" and "Non-U" (upper class and not upper class--very, very British, that.) Perhaps the best-known of the bunch, however was Stephen Potter's "One-Upmanship" which created a new verb (or at least firmly re-established an older one) in the English language: to one-up.
Such was the popularity of the notions in the book, that very little time was lost before some bright spark wrapped a story around them and put them on the screen. The only surprise about the whole enterprise is how very, very skillfully it was done. Besides clever writers, the British film industry in those days boasted of a matchless stable of character actors, high comedians, low comics and farceurs.Read more ›
Or How To Win Without Actually Cheating. That's the subtitle of School For Scoundrels, this brilliant piece of British comedy from 1960, a title my father saw long ago and which I got him for a Christmas present, with a screenplay by Peter Ustinov no less adapted from three Stephen Potter novels.
Poor Henry Palfrey! Clearly, he's constantly in a one-down position to the whole world. In a flashback, we see how despite being an executive in his late uncle's firm, he's dominated by his chief clerk Gloatbridge, who treats him like a non-entity. He literally bumps into the girl of his dreams, April Smith, a stunning but sweet, clean girl who's a brunette version of Betty Grable. However, a rascally, gap-toothed, smooth-talking acquaintance, Raymond Delawney, impresses April with his savoir-faire in wines and food, and even his snazzy Bellini sports car. Palfrey ends up getting a lemon and horribly losing a tennis match, where Delawney replies with a plummy "hard cheese!" every time he misses a point, causing him to lose face in front of April.
He thus enrolls in Professor Potter's classes on lifemanship. What is lifemanship? It's "the science of being one up on your opponent at all times.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was fun to see these actors when they were very young. They were funny then, too. I enjoyed seeing Ian Carmichael before "Lord Peter."Published 1 month ago by Sheila Todd
A delightful English comedy portraying life in a different era post WW2 really enjoyed it as much as I did as a young kid. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Russell Ward
Saw the film on the'60's and can only recommend to those who want a good laughPublished 2 months ago by Reiner Kirsten