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School For Scoundrels (1960)
Alastair Sim as the disguised Stephen Potter in School for Scoundrels The English humorist Stephen Potter enjoyed great success in the 1950s with his books "Gamesmanship" (which ironically advised sportsmen on "how to win without actually cheating", chiefly by using psychological ploys to unsettle their opponents) and "Lifemanship" and "One-upmanship" which advocated a similar attitude to life in general. The central idea of this film is that Potter (played by Alastair), not content with merely writing books, has actually opened a College of Lifemanship in Somerset in order to teach his philosophy. Henry Palfrey tries hard to impress the beautiful April Smith but always loses out to the caddish Raymond Delauney (played by the wonderful Terry Thomas). Then he discovers the Lifemanship college run by "Professor" Potter and discovers the secrets of success. But has he the courage to put all his lessons into effect? Full synopsis

Potter: Well gentleman, lifemanship is the science of being one up on your opponents at all times. It is the art of making him feel that somewhere, somehow he has become less than you - less desirable, less worthy - less blessed. Who then you ask are your opponents? - everybody in the world who is not you. And the purpose of your life must be to be one-up on them because, and mark this well, he who is not one-up is one-down.

Delauney: He went to Yeovil. He went to the College of Lifemanship and he learnt all the tricks. All his dirty, rotten tricks.
Potter: No, no. Not tricks my good man. Art, science, philosophy if you like. No, no, not tricks.

Delauney: Hard cheese!

cast list production credits

Stephen Potter

Alastair Sim


Robert Hamer
Raymond Delauney Terry Thomas

Production Company

Ass. British Pictures
Henry Palfrey Ian Carmichael Producer Hal E. Chester
Dunstan Dennis Price Screenplay Hal E. Chester
Dudley Peter Jones   Patricia Moyes
Gloatbridge Edward Chapman Original Novel Stephen Potter
Head Waiter John Le Mesurier Dir Photography Erwin Hillier
Mrs Stringer Irene Handle

School For Scoundrels Spanish Lobby Card

General Kynaston Reeves
1st Instructress Hattie Jacques
Instructor Hugh Paddick
2nd Instructress Barbara Roscoe
Proudfoot Gerald Campion
Fleetsnod Monte Landis
Dingle Jeremy Lloyd
Carpenter Charles Lamb

35mm, black and white, 94 mins

Interesting facts

Also Known As: School for Scoundrels or How to Win Without Actually Cheating! (UK) (long title)

Stephen Potter's biography tells that, before this happy film version was made, Cary Grant was keen, with American producer Carl Foreman, to make a film about Potter's brilliant (now sadly out-of-print) Oneupmanship books. The problem that confronted Grant and Foreman was that they couldn't find anyway to make the humour "American". In the end they dropped it and this rather Ealing-esque film was made instead.

Hattie Jacques does an hilarious voice-parody of Joan Greenwood as she is instructing Palfrey in the art of Woomanship.

A first screenplay was written by Peter Ustinov, who was also the first choice for Dennis Price's role as Dunstan Dorcester.

Robert Hamer (the director of Kind Hearts and Coronets) is credited with directing. When Hamer, an alcoholic, fell off the wagon half way through and kept on turning up on set half-drunk, however, the producer immediately fired him, brought in another director, Cyril Frank, and the two of them finished the movie uncredited.

The brilliant used car salesmen Dunstan and Dudley (Dennis Price and Peter Jones) were based on characters from the BBC radio comedy series "In All Directions" broadcast during the 1950s. The radio characters were known as Morry and Dud and were played by Peter Ustinov and Peter Jones who also wrote the scripts together with scriptwriters Frank Muir and Denis Norden. Their catch phrase "run for it!" was reprised in the film.

The script, credited to Patricia Moyes and the producer, Hal Chester was in fact written by Peter Ustinov and the blacklisted American writer, Frank Tarloff.

It is perhaps surprising that the makers of this film did not use the titles of any of Potter's books for their own title, as at least two of them have passed into the English language. (My Shorter Oxford English Dictionary does contain an entry for "lifemanship", but it is not a word in common use today). The title they actually did use is an obvious reference to Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 18th Century comedy, "The School for Scandal".