Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cinema Tuesdays {How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying}

When I saw the pilot of Mad Men my first thought was "They must have seen How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" and then I saw who was playing Bert Cooper:
Robert Morse! He starred in both the Broadway show and this 1967 adaptation, which is so much more fun to watch than Mad Men. He plays J. Pierpont Finch, a humble window washer who sees the title book at a news stand. It is an actual book, hard to get a hold of though, but I've read it and the film is a pretty close adaptation of it's self-help tips, some of which can still be used today. So if you can find the book, read it and it might help you on your career.
Following the first step in the book, Finch wanders in through the window to the World Wide Wicket Company, who's slogan "A day without a Wicket is like a day without sunshine" has been around for a hundred years. What exactly is a Wicket? No one really seems to know, which makes it just the right company to start out with.
Within five minute, Finch has secured a job in the mailroom without any qualifications. Look, he's wearing the same suit and bow-tie that he wears on Mad Men.
Let's meet the other main characters:
Rudy Vallee (also in the Broadway show) plays J.B. Biggley, the president of the World Wide Wicket Company. He may not be that good at his job, but people still fear him and his favourite expression: "Damn! Damn! Coal burning! Dithering! Ding ding ding..."
This is Rosemary Pilkington, the secretary who thinks that Finch is a poor little lamb.
Then there's Bud Frump, Mr. Biggley's scheming nephew who always wears an exact copy of whichever suit his uncle is wearing.
And finally there's the new secretary Hedy Larue, an old family friend of Mr. Biggley's. Would you believe that she used to work in a night club?
Right away in the mailroom, Finch endears himself to his boss and everyone else that he's met so far, except for Bud, who hates him.
He also charms the only hard-working employee, Miss Jones, Mr. Biggley's secretary and within two hours of stepping in through the window,
Finch is made a junior executive. Not bad for a morning's work.
Meanwhile, Rosemary has a scheme of her own. Guess what it is.
I love her hats in the movie, they always match her dresses.
In frustration over having gone a week without a promotion, Finch arranges to bond with Mr. Biggley over their passion for knitting.
By Monday, Finch gets his own office. It may not have a door, but it's a start.
He also gets his own secretary. Hedy can type "like a jackrabbit, twelve words a minute". Fortunately, Finch discovers that Hedy is very good at getting important executives fired.
With one exception, the Vice President in charge of Advertising, which is the job that Finch wants.
With the help of a false moustache and a silly hat, Finch is able deal with that problem.
Check out his new office, is that cool or what? Why, oh why is there not more colour in Mad Men or in any office today.
According to the book, Vice President in charge of Advertising is the worst job to have, because it requires one to have ideas, make presentations and so on, or be fired.
So he comes up with one, but it doesn't go well. Finch's idea includes a televised treasure hunt, a pirate girl and a giant Bible.
This of course leads to the traditional looting mob.
In order to get out of this with his head still attached, Finch has to explain himself to Wally Womper, the Chairman of the Board. Fortunately, Wally also started out as a window washer.
Finch's solution: the big musical number. Does it work?
I love Mr. Biggley's presidential office, especially the way the blue vase really sets off the red and brown colour scheme.

Without wanting to spoil the ending, here are some more shots of the office settings:
The Executive Washroom. If you can get a key to this room, then you know that you have made it in big business.
The Chairman of the Board's impressive modern office. I think it's bigger than my house.
Throughout the film, we often see Finch skipping down the sidewalks of New York. Keep an eye out for the outfits of the people walking down the street, since they weren't extras and several of them stop and stare at Finch's odd way of walking.
Then of course, there's the secretarial pool in a brightly coloured office setting. They aren't interested in their work, which detracts from the more important things they would be doing.


Ivy Black said...

I love this film...I haven't seen it in ages!
There's an award for you over at mine.

Anonymous said...

One of the best times I ever had was playing Hedy in my school's production! And to this day, if someone says there's no coffee, I want to yell "No Coffee!" and faint on the floor.

Fabulous post.