Bedtime Story (film)

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Bedtime Story
Original film poster
Directed by Ralph Levy
Produced by Stanley Shapiro
Written by Stanley Shapiro
Paul Henning
Starring Marlon Brando
David Niven
Shirley Jones
Dody Goodman
Aram Stephan
Parley Baer
Marie Windsor
Rebecca Sand
Frances Robinson
Music by Hans J. Salter
Cinematography Clifford Stine
Edited by Milton Carruth
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
June 10, 1964
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office est. $3,000,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

Bedtime Story is a 1964 comedy film made by Pennebaker Productions. It was directed by Ralph Levy and produced by Stanley Shapiro with Robert Arthur as executive producer from a screenplay by Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning. The music score was by Hans J. Salter and the cinematography by Clifford Stine.

The film stars Marlon Brando, David Niven and Shirley Jones, and was later the basis for the 1988 comedy film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine.


Lawrence Jameson (David Niven) is a refined, elegant con artist who operates in the French Riviera town of Beaulieu-sur-Mer. He masquerades frequently as the deposed prince of a small European country, seducing wealthy women into donating money and jewellery to his revolutionary "cause". Meanwhile, Corporal Freddy Benson (Marlon Brando) is a small-time operator in the US Army stationed in Germany, an expert at conning his way into the hearts (and wallets) of young women with sob stories about his sick grandmother. His attempt at seducing the daughter of a local burgomaster backfires when her father arrives home early, and Freddy is nearly arrested until he blackmails his Colonel into giving him an early discharge.

On a train to Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, Freddy cockily displays his skill as a con man to Lawrence, whom he believes to be a henpecked husband. Lawrence, believing Freddy's "poaching" will endanger his ability to procure bigger targets, decides to ensure Freddy does not set up in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, first attempting to distract him into leaving town, and then, when that fails, arranging for his arrest. Lawrence also arranges for Freddy to be released and buys him a plane ticket to America. Unfortunately, one of Lawrence's former conquests (Dody Goodman) is on the plane, and mistakes Freddy for a revolutionary in the employ of "The Prince". Thus clued-in to Lawrence's true identity as a con man, Freddy returns to Beaulieu-Sur-Mer and blackmails Lawrence into taking him on as an apprentice.

Freddy is taught to play The Prince's mentally challenged brother Ruprecht, an added tactic to scare women away from marrying the prince. They are successful but quarrel when Lawrence refuses to pay Freddy until he can learn to appreciate the culture necessary for Lawrence's style of con. Freddy decides to set out on his own, but since Lawrence believes that there is not enough room in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer for both of them, the two agree to a bet in order to decide who is "King of the Mountain". The first one to steal $25,000 from a selected mark will be allowed to stay.

The two select Janet Walker (Shirley Jones), a naive American heiress, as their target. Freddy poses as a soldier who has suffered psychosomatic paralysis. He wins Janet's affections with a sad story about being betrayed by his first love and convinces her that he needs $25,000 to pay for treatment by a celebrated Swedish psychiatrist, Dr. Emile Shauffhausen. As soon as Lawrence discovers this scheme, he masquerades as Dr. Shauffhausen, agreeing to treat Freddy's "condition" with the stipulation that Janet pay the $25,000 directly to him. The two set up a war for Janet's affections, ruthlessly sabotaging each other...with Lawrence coming out on top, more often than not.

Lawrence discovers that Janet is not wealthy after all, but on vacation as a contest winner for the soap company that employs her, and that she intends to sell off the remainder of her winnings to pay for Freddy's treatment. Since he only preys on wealthy women who can afford to lose vast sums of money, Lawrence attempts to call off the bet. Freddy refuses, but suggests that they change the bet to be Janet herself: the first to get her into bed would be the winner. Lawrence refuses to try to seduce Janet, but bets that Freddy will fail to do so.

Freddy has Lawrence kidnapped by some paratroopers he has fooled into thinking Lawrence is trying to steal his girl. In an elaborate routine, he convinces Janet of his love by "conquering" his psychosomatic paralysis and walking. But it is revealed that Lawrence has been present the whole time, and he now declares that Freddy is cured.

Lawrence explains that the soldiers released him after he told them he was a RAF paratrooper during the war, then filled them in on Freddy's lies. The soldiers, angry at being deceived, keep Freddy occupied at a party until Lawrence puts Janet on a train. However, just as the train is departing, Janet receives a telegram that the real Dr. Emil Shauffausen has been dead for over 40 years. Confused and distraught, she returns to her hotel room, where she finds Freddy, who apparently succeeds in seducing her.

Lawrence receives the news that Freddy was seen leaving Janet's hotel room with her, so he gracefully accepts defeat. Freddy arrives at Lawrence's château, but surprisingly, he has had a change of heart; he found he could not take advantage of Janet, that his feelings for her were genuine. Instead, he has married her, is going straight, and they are returning to America.

Lawrence reconciles with Freddy before he and Janet depart. He reflects, as he watches the honeymooners' ship sail away, that the married Freddy has gotten the better deal in the end, but is distracted from this train of thought when his next target, a ravishing and extremely wealthy blonde, walks into the room.


Filmed on location at Cannes, the comedy was written and produced by Stanley Shapiro (who received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the 1959 romantic comedy film Pillow Talk).



  1. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1964", Variety, 6 January 1965 p 39. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to distributors not total gross.

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