One Up to Old Fashioned Fun
It's probably wrong for me to say so but the idea of getting "one up" on someone has always appealed to me so it's no surprise that I enjoy the 1960s version of "School for Scoundrels". From the relatively simple storyline as we watch doormat Henry Palfrey learn to get one up on those who have walked all over him through to the teaching of "One-upmanship" from Alastair Sim as Mr. S. Potter it is just good fun. And being a movie from over 50 years ago, whilst there is all the fun of watching Henry get one up on those around him, especially Raymond Delauney played by Terry-Thomas there is that happy ever after ending where honesty wins through. It is old fashioned but as such "School for Scoundrels" is good old fashioned fun.
Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) is a bit of a doormat, his assistant constantly ignores what he asks him to do and when he meets the lovely April Smith (Janette Scott) ends up loosing her to the rascalish Raymond Delauney (Terry-Thomas - Blue Murder at St. Trinian's) who purposefully gets one over on Henry at every opportunity. Desperate to stop being a doormat Henry enrols at the Lifeman College where Professor Potter (Alastair Sim - The Belles of St. Trinian's) educates him in various skills of One-upmanship. Now armed with various techniques Henry returns home to not only get one over on all those who treated him like a doormat but also on Raymond so that he can win April back.
The storyline to "School for Scoundrels" comes in a clear 3 parts starting with Henry explaining to Mr. Potter as to why he is at his school. As such we learn how Henry is basically a doormat with others getting one up on him all the time in particular that rascalish Raymond Delauney who manages to steal his new girlfriend April from him by embarrassing him at every opportunity. All of which is amusing and in a way quite clever because we instantly warm to Henry and whilst amused by the way Raymond gets one over on him also dislike him in a comical way.
Second half of "School for Scoundrels" focuses on Henry being taught various skills from gamesmanship, woo-manship and basically ways to get one over on who ever you like. Now it has to be said that this middle section mixes the humorous with the corny especially when Henry is taught by a female instructor played by Hattie Jacques on how to get one over on a woman which in this case is getting his socks darned. But this middle section works because it features Alastair Sim on first rate form as the instructor, teaching Henry countless dubious skills especially when it comes to winning at playing Tennis.
And then having learnt the skills the third part of "School for Scoundrels" is basically pay back time as Henry employs all these techniques not only to get one over on those who had done it to him, such as a couple of car sales men who sold him a wreck but more importantly getting back at Raymond. And once more it is great fun as we watch Henry manage to embarrass Raymond in everyway possible and in doing so winning back April which leads to the sort of epiphinal good guy goes honest ending.
As such "School for Scoundrels" is a simple movie built around the humorous ways of getting one up but it works and whilst occasional corny it rarely disappoints in a very easy to watch sort of way. What I mean is that it's in no ways complex; it's very family friendly and all rather innocent bar for one skill in getting a female into a dressing gown via the use of a slippery glass.
What makes this all work and makes "School for Scoundrels" memorable are the trio of stars Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas and Alastair Sim although you can't ignore the loveliness of Janette Scott as April Smith. Ian Carmichael is just perfect both as being a doormat but also when he turns into an expert of One-upmanship delivering the fun of getting one over on his rival to perfection. And Terry-Thomas makes for a perfect rival especially when he is stealing April away from him with his rascalish ways and his car which has a horn which wolf whistles. But it is Alastair Sim who is the big star of the movie because just a slight mannerism, the way he looks and you just believe that his Mr. Potter has spent his life fine tuning the skill of One-upmanship.
What this all boils down to is that "School for Scoundrels" is simply a good fun movie. It's a simple storyline built around a doormat of a man getting his own back on a rival by learning the skills of One-upmanship and as such there is scene after scene of skulduggery as Henry gets one over on Raymond time and again. But it is also inoffensive delivering old fashioned family friendly humour thanks to the wonderful performances of Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas and Alastair Sim.