Saturday, June 15, 2013

how not to...

 An article from page eight of the pressbook for "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"
When David Swift's 1967 film version of the Frank Loesser musical, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," was in production, rumors were rampant that Cary Grant, of all people, would be making an appearance in the film.  Nothing was elaborated on; it seemed a tease.

When the unfortunate film finally materialized, Grant was decidedly not on screen - and the scribes that had written about the event apparently forgot all about it.  But United Artists didn't.  In what amounts to a massive (and typical) Hollywood screw-up, whoever put together the pressbook for the film - the pressbook in those days being an important marketing tool - included a reference to Grant, inviting newspapers to use the information.

You can read it for yourself above - and learn Grant's rationale for agreeing to do a turn in the movie.  It was on page 8 of the pressbook.

One can assume that Grand did indeed film his non-speaking cameo. But, naturally, it was never explained why it isn't in the complete film. As the sequence in question - the "I Believe in You" number - was film, it end with star Robert Morse looking at himself in a mirror when his image turns into Cary Grant's.  As release, the sequence ends with Morse seeing his own image in the mirror, not Grant's.

And one can only speculate what happened to the Grant footage. Knowing U.A.'s bad track record for retaining elements from its films, it's probably long gone.  Otherwise, some resourceful home-entertainment peon would have included it on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD or whatever.

Also filmed, discarded and still missing is the legendary "Coffee Break" number (see the still below) that, according to someone at IMDb, was "deemed unusable."  You could say the same about the entire film.

Turner Classic Movies will screen "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" tonight at 9:45 (est).

For some reason, Turner canceled last night's screening of "How to Succeed," replacing it with Roy Enright's "Gold Diggers in Paris" (1938). It was an evening of Rudy Vallee films. -J.B. 6/16/2013

Note in Passing:  Billy Wilder who had a  track record with the Mirisch Brothers, the producers of the film, had expressed interest in directing "How to Succeed" and with Jack Lemmon as his star (just as Wilder had wanted to direct Lemmon in "The Odd Couple").  The project, however, went to Swift, who had directed Lemmon back-to-back in "Under the Yum-Yum Tree" and "Good Neighbor Sam" - but who opted instead for Morse, the play's original star.  Morse was great on stage, but on screen, and in extreme close-up, his mugging and facial tics are difficult to take.

8 comments:

Bill said...

I like this film, but I have to admit that Morse seems to be playing to the last row in the balcony. A bad stage habit that he took to the screen. Still, I'm glad the film preserved his performance.

joe baltake said...

Bill- Perhaps Neil Patrick Harris should have watched this film before he made his quip on the Tonys about stage actors not needing close-ups. Whatch "How to Succeed" and you find out why.

Brian said...

Great bit of trivia!

jbryant said...

For me, the film works as an entertaining time capsule, with sexual politics of the time mixed with up-to-date power politics. I see your point about Morse's mugging, but at the same time his performance and Swift's mise-en-scene make the proceedings seem like some lost Jerry Lewis film, and it's rather refreshingly scaled down in comparison to the big, often bloated, Hollywood musicals that were more common to the era. It also helps that the songs are strong, especially the lyrics.

wwolfe said...

Delaying the film until 1967 - presumably until after its Broadway run had finished - had the unfortunate effect of making it seem like a relic from the distant past by the time it hit the movie theaters. America in 1963 and America in 1967 were two very different places, and seeing a piece of '63 in the midst of '67 must have been an odd experience. (Regarding Morse, his current work in "Mad Men" is very good, in large measure because his performance is so quiet and self-contained - very much the opposite of how you describe his work in "How to Succeed.")

Kent said...

I love how the UA pressbook misspells Dyan Cannon's name.

Unknown said...

Can't agree with your assessment of this film -- it's one of the most enjoyable musical comedies of all time. And it's held up better than most musicals of that era. Sure, it's only a few steps removed from it's stage origins, and Robert Morse's performance is about the same as on he did on the Broadway stage, but so what? I found that approach refreshing, without being an actual "filmed" stage presentation, which never come across well on film. Robert Morse's performance is electric, and what really set's this film (and the original Broadway production) head and shoulders above all revivals. That role is his, forever, and no one can even come close. Yes, "How to Succeed" IS a great picture, which would have been even better had they kept the "Coffee Break" number in it (and not gutted Michelle Lee's part of a couple numbers her character Rosemary had in the stage version). Every now and then I check online to see if there's been any good news as far as locating the missing "Coffee Break" scene, but so far no luck.

joe baltake said...

I, of course, respectfully disagree.