Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (film)
|Dirty Rotten Scoundrels|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Oz|
|Produced by||Bernard Williams|
|Written by||Dale Launer
|Music by||Miles Goodman|
|Editing by||Stephen A. Rotter
William S. Scharf
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures Corporation|
|Running time||110 minutes|
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a 1988 American comedy film directed by Frank Oz and starring Michael Caine, Steve Martin and Glenne Headly. The screenplay was written by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro, and Paul Henning. In the movie Steve Martin and Michael Caine are both con men that are competing to con an American “Soap Queen” out of $50,000.00. 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 the loud, cocky American Freddy Benson, who is an up and coming con man that wants to con anyone out of money so he can spend it all on his own enjoyment. It all takes place in the beautiful French Riviera. Although it is not officially credited as a remake of Bedtime Story, it closely follows the plot of the 1964 film starring David Niven and Marlon Brando.
Lawrence Jamieson is a cultivated and suave British con artist who operates in the deluxe hotels along the French Riviera with the help of his manservant Arthur and corrupt local police officer 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 tired of the humiliating part he has to play, decides to strike out on his own.
Since Lawrence believes that there is not enough room in Beaumont-sur-Mer for both of them, the two agree to a bet in order to decide who stays. The first one to con $50,000 out of a selected mark will be allowed to stay, while the other must leave and never return to Beaumont-sur-Mer. The two select Janet Colgate, a naive and wealthy American heiress, as their target and embark on their separate strategies while at the same time ruthlessly sabotaging each other. Freddy poses as a psychosomatically crippled soldier who needs to borrow $50,000 for treatment by a celebrated Liechtenstein psychiatrist, Dr. Emile Shauffhausen. But when Lawrence discovers this scheme he pretends to be Dr. Shauffhausen, 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, noting that his previous victims have all been wealthy and corrupt. Freddy suggests they change the challenge and make Janet herself the bet, with the first to bed her declared the winner. Lawrence refuses to try to "win," agreeing only to bet that Freddy will fail to do so.
Lawrence tries to convince Janet that she must ignore her growing attraction for Freddy as part of his therapy and manages to keep her from having any time alone with him 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 reserve officer. The sailors, angry at being duped by Freddy, keep him occupied while Lawrence puts Janet on a plane to America.
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 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 who claims that Janet robbed the both of them. Puzzled, Lawrence finally opens up the bag and finds a note from Janet instead admitting that she indeed took the $50,000 and that she was The Jackal all along. Freddy is angry while Lawrence is charmed by the Jackal's skill.
Freddy and Lawrence assess their loss. They are about to part company when the Jackal, in a new disguise as a loud New York real estate developer, arrives at Lawrence's villa with a yacht filled with wealthy people. She promptly has Lawrence and Freddy assume roles in her scheme and while the guests refresh themselves, she takes them aside and announces that while she has made a fortune, she had the most fun with them. Joining arms, they set out to fleece their latest victims.
- Steve Martin as Freddy Benson
- Michael Caine as Lawrence Jamieson
- Glenne Headly as Janet Colgate
- Anton Rodgers as Inspector Andre
- Barbara Harris as "Lady" Fanny Eubanks of Omaha
- Ian McDiarmid as Arthur, The butler
- Dana Ivey as Mrs. Reed
- Meagen Fay as Lady from Oklahoma
- Frances Conroy as Lady from Palm Beach
- Louis Zorich as Nikos, the Greek millionaire
The film was rumored to have originally 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." Jagger had written the title song to Ruthless People based on his enthusiasm for the screenplay written by Dale Launer. When 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.
Launer rewrote the screenplay and took it to Orion Pictures. The first director on the project was Herbert Ross (Turning Point). Eventually Ross was replaced by Frank Oz who preferred the Launer version written previously to Mr. Ross' involvement.
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.
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.
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 
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."
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."
Vincent Canby of the "New York Times said "...one of the season's most cheerful, most satisfying new comedies" and "...blithe, seemingly all-new, laugh-out-loud escapade" and "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."
Box office 
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.
Awards and nominations 
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 
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.
- "DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1989-01-25. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
- Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies" Lists of Bests, June 2, 2006
- Campbell, Virginia (1992), "Bowie at the Bijou", Movieline III (7): 83
- Roger Ebert (December 14, 1988). "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Variety, December 31, 1987
- Movie Review - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels New York Times, December 14, 1988
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (film) at Rotten Tomatoes Flixster
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (film) at Box Office Mojo Amazon.com
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Internet Movie Database
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at AllRovi
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Box Office Mojo
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Rotten Tomatoes
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Metacritic