School for Scoundrels (1960)

I am a sucker for old British black and white comedies.  They reigned supreme from around 1945 to 1965 and gave us some classic actors such as Alec Guinness, Alistair Sim, Terry Thomas and Norman Wisdom.  The story lines where woefully simple and one dimensional and served as a perfect remedy for a young boy, who is off school sick, lying on the couch and being forced to watch whatever daytime TV had to throw at him.

And it was through this BBC 2 movie diet that I was introduced to a number of these.  It has been nearly 30 years since dipping back into some of these, even at the time, they were over 20 years when I first watched them.  I think some of this nostalgic feelings is further compounded by the memory of your mother/father dropping in to check on you and force feed you the customary Heinz’s tomato soup (known to cure all ills) and sitting with you for a while as they are reintroduced to a movie they crew up on.

The first one in this movie journey I am on, is the classic

Alastair Sim

 ‘School for Scoundrels’.  He plays a professor of what is basically a mans finishing school for men that are always on the wrong end of winning in social settings.   

Ian Carmichael is our man who enrolls for help on how to win in every social setting.  He struggles to win the girl, gets screwed when buying a new car, and gets pushed around by his employees.  

His complete opposite, the man that everything seems to go right for, doing no wrong, is played by the delightful Terry-Thomas.  Thomas I love, recently Johnny Depp channeled his mannerisms in the Mortdecai movie, is the perfect fit for this role.

So the first half of the movie is seeing all the things that go wrong for Carmichael and how is continually trumped by Thomas.  Then as he learns more from the classes of the school run by Sim, he is ready to put everything into practice.  But we have the joy of having Sim come along for the ride as he out does Thomas.

Sim was the Sir Ian McKellan of his generation, able to do serious and comedy with no problems.   He breaks the fourth wall, talking to the audience at the end of the movie which was rather sweet and again, revolutionary at the time.

There are so many things you can find fault with this one.  The ages of everyone is completely out of whack with reality particularly as they vie for the attention of the beautiful lady played by

Janette Scott.

While colour was available, it was expensive but for these style of movies, I believe the black’n’white format adds a huge amount of charm to these.  It masks over blemishes and makes everyone look great (some of us are destined to only peak at the absence of colour!).

If you start into this period of British cinema you will bump into the same characters time and time again as Elstree studios churned out many a classic and this one deserves to be up there with the rest of them.

I watched this movie on my tablet and I wonder how the actors of this generation would think about their creation still being enjoyed nearly 60 years later on these wafer thin devices.

Good movie, and you don’t need to be holed up on the couch, ill, to enjoy it.


Viewing Date
Thursday, 22nd October 2015


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Author: Alan Williamson

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