The Smile That Wins

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"The Smile that Wins" is a short story by the British comic writer P. G. Wodehouse. A part of the Mr. Mulliner series, the story was first published in the United States, in the October 1931 issue of The American Magazine. It was subsequently published in the United Kingdom in the February 1932 issue of The Strand Magazine, before being collected in Mulliner Nights (1933).[1][2]

The story was adapted for television as part of the third series of BBC's Wodehouse Playhouse and was first shown on 31 October 1978, with John Alderton as Adrian Mulliner.[3]

It was adapted for radio as part of the BBC's series Meet Mr Mulliner, being first broadcast on 13 May 2002.


Adrian Mulliner, a private detective, falls in love with Lady Millicent Shipton-Bellinger, the daughter of the fifth Earl of Brangbolton who has a horror of detectives ever since Millicent's Uncle Joe's troubles in 1928. The father insists that Millicent must marry Sir Jasper Addleton, the financier.

Heartbroken, Adrian has a bad attack of dyspepsia (he suffers from the disease and it was the melancholic dyspeptic look that first attracted Millicent) and a doctor advises him that the best cure for dyspepsia is to smile. Adrian, who hasn't smiled since he was twelve ("I saw the butler trip on a spaniel and upset the melted butter all over Aunt Elizabeth"), has a sinister-looking smile that seems to say 'I know all' and causes a great deal of nervousness amongst people with something to hide.

A kleptomaniac, Baronet helping himself to a fish slice at a wedding is his first victim and Adrian finds himself invited to the Baronet's country home where he finds the Fifth Earl of Brangbolton in residence. After he solves the case of the missing soap (it had shot out of the Earl's hands while he was singing "Sonny Boy") he unleashes his smile on Sir Jasper Addleton who, guilty like all financiers, hands him a check for a hundred thousand pounds.

With this hundred thousand pounds in hand, and the unfortunate effect of the smile on the Earl just as the Earl was cheating at cards, Adrian gets the Earl's blessing to marry Millicent.


  1. ^ PG Wodehouse Society (UK) information sheet
  2. ^ McIlvaine, Eileen; Louise S Sherby and James H Heineman (1990), P G Wodehouse: A Comprehensive Bibliography and Checklist, New York: James H Heineman, Inc, ISBN 0-87008-125-X 
  3. ^ "The Smile that Wins" at the Internet Movie Database