Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (film)

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Dirty rotten scoundrels film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Frank Oz
Produced by Bernard Williams
Written by Dale Launer
Stanley Shapiro
Paul Henning
Starring Steve Martin
Michael Caine
Glenne Headly
Music by Miles Goodman
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus
Edited by Stephen A. Rotter
William S. Scharf
Distributed by Orion Pictures Corporation
Release dates
  • December 14, 1988 (1988-12-14)
Running time 110 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $42,039,085

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a 1988 American comedy film directed by Frank Oz and starring Steve Martin, Michael Caine and Glenne Headly. The screenplay was written by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro, and Paul Henning.

It is the story of two men competing to swindle an American heiress out of $50,000. Caine plays the suave con man Lawrence Jamieson, who believes in conning corrupt, rich people out of their money so he can spend it on culture and a lavish lifestyle. Martin plays his loud, cocky American rival, Freddy Benson, who believes in conning just about anyone in order to get a free meal. It takes place in the French Riviera.

Although not officially credited as a remake of Bedtime Story, it closely follows the plot of the 1964 film starring David Niven and Marlon Brando and their two characters have the same names. This version has a different ending than the first. Shapiro and Henning co-wrote the 1964 screenplay and receive credit for this adaptation.

The film ranks as number 85 on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies.[2]

Plot[edit]

Lawrence Jamieson is a cultivated and suave British con artist who operates in the French Riviera with the help of manservant Arthur and corrupt police official Andre. His signature con is seducing wealthy and morally suspect women and stealing their money. His only concern is a mysterious, anonymous con artist known only as "The Jackal" who has been preying on other wealthy victims of late.

When small-time American hustler Freddy Benson decides to search for easy marks in Beaumont-sur-Mer, Lawrence's home base, Lawrence believes that the Jackal has shown his face. Worried that Freddy's clumsy antics will scare away his prey, Lawrence has Freddy arrested and put on the next plane out of town. However, Freddy meets one of Lawrence's former marks and deduces that the older man is also a crook.

Returning to Beaumont-sur-Mer, Freddy forces Lawrence to take him on as a pupil in exchange for his silence. Lawrence attempts to teach the boorish Freddy about high culture with limited success. He also involves him as a subordinate player in his cons, making him play the mentally challenged and socially inept Ruprecht in order to scare away their female targets after their money has been acquired. Freddy, tired of not getting paid and the humiliating part he has to play, decides to strike out on his own.

Lawrence believes that there is not enough room in Beaumont-sur-Mer for both of them, so a bet is proposed to decide who stays. The first to con $50,000 out of a selected mark will be allowed to stay, while the other must leave town and never return. The two select Janet Colgate, a naive American heiress, and embark on their separate strategies while at the same time ruthlessly sabotaging each other. Freddy poses as a psychosomatically crippled U.S. Army soldier (unable to walk after seeing his wife cheat on him with Dance U.S.A. host Deney Terrio) who needs to borrow $50,000 for treatment by the celebrated Liechtenstein psychiatrist, Dr. Emil Shaffhausen. But when Lawrence discovers this scheme he pretends to be Dr. Shaffhausen, insisting Freddy's condition is one he can cure, with the stipulation that Janet pay the $50,000 fee directly to him.

Lawrence discovers that Janet is not wealthy after all but on vacation as a contest winner and that she intends to liquidate most of her assets to pay for Freddy's treatment. Impressed and emotionally touched by Janet's innate goodness, Lawrence calls off the bet. Freddy agrees and now proposes a new bet; Janet herself, with the first to bed her declared the winner. Lawrence refuses to bed Janet, instead the bet will be whether or not Freddy can succeed, with Lawrence believing Freddy will fail.

Lawrence manages to keep her from having any time alone with Freddy in which they might consummate a relationship. With the help of some British sailors, Freddy waylays Lawrence, and rushes to Janet's hotel room where he demonstrates his love by walking to her. However, Janet is not alone. Lawrence is present and declares Freddy cured of his ailment. Ushering Freddy out of the room he explains that the sailors released him after discovering that he is a Royal Navy Reserves officer. The sailors, angry at being duped by Freddy, keep him occupied at a party while Lawrence puts Janet on a plane to America. Despite his impending loss, Freddy becomes inebriated and enjoys the party greatly.

The next day however, Janet does not board her flight. She instead returns to her hotel room to find a remorseful Freddy there. They kiss, close the door and begin to undress. The news reaches Lawrence as he swims, and he accepts his defeat with grace. He is later seen struggling to retain composure as he waits for Freddy to return and gloat over his victory. Instead, Janet arrives in tears. She tells him that Freddy has stolen the money her father sent. Lawrence compensates her with $50,000 of his own, calls Andre to have Freddy arrested, and takes her to the airport.

At the last minute before she boards the plane, Janet tells Lawrence that she cannot take the money and gives the bag back to him. As the plane leaves, the police arrive with Freddy, wearing nothing but a bathrobe, who claims that Janet robbed the both of them, including Freddy's clothes. Puzzled, Lawrence opens up the bag and finds not the money he had given to Janet, but Freddy's clothes and, underneath, a note from Janet admitting having taken the $50,000 and revealing herself to be the real Jackal. Freddy is angry while Lawrence is smitten.

One day, the following week, Freddy and Lawrence are at Lawrence's villa looking back on their loss. They are about to part company when the Jackal, in a new disguise as a loud New York real estate developer, arrives in a yacht filled with wealthy people. She promptly has Lawrence and Freddy assume roles in her scheme and, after sending her guests off to refresh themselves, she takes the pair aside and announces that while she made three million dollars the previous year, "[their] fifty thousand was the most fun". Joining arms, they set out to fleece their latest victims.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Pre-production[edit]

The film was originally to have been written as a vehicle for Mick Jagger and David Bowie, who, according to Bowie, were "a bit tweezed that we lost out on a script that could have been reasonably good."[3] Jagger had written the title song to Ruthless People,. and based on his enthusiasm for the screenplay written by Dale Launer, Jagger and Bowie asked Launer to write a screenplay for them. Launer suggested they do a remake of the 1964 film Bedtime Story, which originally starred David Niven and Marlon Brando. Launer ended up securing the remake rights from Stanley Shapiro, one of the original writers and producer of Bedtime Story. He went back to Jagger and Bowie with the project who decided to go in a different direction for a project suggested by Martin Scorcese.

Launer rewrote the screenplay and took it to Orion Pictures. The first director on the project was Herbert Ross (Turning Point). Launer re-wrote the project for Ross, who decided to replace Launer. But instead, Ross was replaced by Frank Oz who preferred the version written previously to Mr. Ross' involvement.

Filming[edit]

Filming locations included Antibes, Cannes, Beaulieu-sur-Mer (depicted in the film as "Beaumont-sur-Mer"), Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Nice, and Villefranche-sur-Mer. The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild was visited by the leading characters in a scene. The estate belonging to Lawrence is a private villa located at the tip of the Cap d'Antibes, and the hotel hosting a number of dining and casino scenes is the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat.

Music[edit]

The soundtrack includes "Puttin' on the Ritz" by Irving Berlin, "Pick Yourself Up" by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, and "We're in the Money" by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. They all feature the violinist Jerry Goodman.

Release[edit]

In a DVD extra providing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, Frank Oz discusses a teaser trailer he directed for the studio, which wanted to begin promoting the film before there was enough actual footage to assemble a trailer. An entire day was spent filming a scene in which Freddy and Lawrence stroll along the promenade, politely moving out of the way of other people, until Freddy casually pushes an elderly woman into the water and Lawrence nonchalantly shoves a little boy's face into his cotton candy. Oz says audiences were surprised to discover the scene was not part of the released film.

There was no trailer for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Director Oz was shown three trailers made and submitted to Orion by "trailer houses" (companies employed by the studios who will take a movie and create a trailer). Oz didn't like any of them and as a result, no trailer was ever released.

Critical response[edit]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said, "The plot ... is not as complex as a movie like The Sting, and we can see some of the surprises as soon as they appear on the horizon. But the chemistry between Martin and Caine is fun, and Headly provides a resilient foil."[4]

Variety called it "wonderfully crafted" and "absolutely charming" and added, "Director Frank Oz clearly has fun with his subjects, helped out in good part by clever cutting and a great, imitative '30s jazzy score by Miles Goodman."[5]

Vincent Canby of the "New York Times called it "one of the season's most cheerful, most satisfying new comedies" which was a "blithe, seemingly all-new, laugh-out-loud escapade". He added that "Mr. Caine and Mr. Martin work together with an exuberant ease that's a joy to watch" plus "In this season of lazy, fat, mistimed and misdirected comedies, exemplified by Scrooged and Twins, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is an enchanted featherweight folly."[6]

Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 87% based on 31 reviews.[7]

Box office[edit]

The film opened on 1,466 screens in the United States and earned $3,840,498 on its opening weekend. In total it grossed $42,039,085 in the US.[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Michael Caine was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy but lost to Tom Hanks in Big. Glenne Headly was named Most Promising New Actress by the Chicago Film Critics Association.

Musical adaptation[edit]

The film served as the basis of a successful stage musical of the same name that opened on Broadway in early 2005. It starred John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz as Lawrence and Freddy and Broadway star Sherie Rene Scott as the soap queen, in the show named Christine Colgate, not Janet.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1989-01-25. Retrieved 2012-11-19. 
  2. ^ Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies" Lists of Bests, June 2, 2006
  3. ^ Campbell, Virginia (1992), "Bowie at the Bijou", Movieline III (7): 83 
  4. ^ Roger Ebert (December 14, 1988). "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels". Chicago Sun-Times.  3/4 stars
  5. ^ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Variety, December 31, 1987
  6. ^ Movie Review - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels New York Times, December 14, 1988
  7. ^ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Rotten Tomatoes Flixster
  8. ^ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Box Office Mojo Amazon.com

External links[edit]