Thursday, November 6, 2008

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

After all that's been going on in the world (and in my life) for the past few days, I decided I needed to just relax and enjoy a good, simple, mindless old-fashioned musical.
What's more simple and mindless than the film version of the broadway classic,
HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING? (1967, directed by David Swift) Well, there's probably dumber and less complex movies out there, but somehow the story of overly ambitious J. Pierpont Finch's meteoric rise from window-washer to chairman of the board was just what I needed!I remember watching this film when it was on TV in the 1970s and loving every minute of it. It's easy to see why - Robert Morse as Finch is a grinning, grimacing, galloping gremlin - like a cartoon character come to life. His body language, his manic energy and innocent, yet seductive charm make him possibly one of the most magnetically watchable cinematic characters ever. Even though Finch does some despicable things to get ahead, we never stop cheering for him. I have to admit, he was my first gay crush. It's so funny to see him today, at age 77 back in the business world as Bertram Cooper on MAD MEN.Supporting actors, notably the women, like cute, perky Michele Lee (as Rosemary), commandingly funny Ruth Kobart (as Miss Jones) and the outrageously curvaceous Maureen Arthur (as Hedy LaRue) are also a joy to watch. One wonders why Kobart and Arthur didn't become bigger stars after this film.The music by Frank Loesser is quite enjoyable, with some great hummable tunes-but this story could almost work without the musical numbers. What makes this film work is the look. With brilliant color design by Disney legend Mary Blair, the sets and costumes POP off the screen and into your living room. Here's a great clip:

Set in the oh so not politically correct 1960s, it's really MAD MEN meets 9 to 5 without the irony or righteousness. It's a celebration of the old school world of businessmen, where smoking, drinking and sexual harassment were all part of the work day. The rules may have changed over the years, but the back-stabbing, ass-kissing, nepotism and corporate politics still exist - just ask anyone who works for a certain nameless movie studio.
So, if you are looking to escape into a silly saccharin 60s screwball sitcom for two hours - I highly recommend either watching this film - or playing the board game!

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