School for Scoundrels. Film Review

DIRECTOR: Robert Hamer
SCREENPLAY: Hal E. Chester, Patricia Moyes, Peter Ustinov, Frank Tarloff
STARRING: Ian Carmichael, Alastair Sim, Terry-Thomas, Janette Scott

Reviewed by Guy Adams

Ian Carmichael, British cinema’s greatest amiable idiot, enrols in the College of Lifemanship. Under the caddish tutelage of Alastair Sim, he soon finds he can get his business and love-life back on track and turn the tables on perennial cad Terry-Thomas.

Based on a series of humorous guidebooks, School for Scoundrels is a beautiful, tweed waist-coated swan, its charming screen persona utterly belying the frantic chaos going on behind the scenes. Director Robert Hamer (responsible for sundry British classics, including the incomparable Kind Hearts and Coronets) was a recovering alcoholic who took up drinking again during the production and was fired, never to work again. Work was completed by Hal E. Chester and Cyril Frankel.

It’s a patchy but pleasant ride. The script is solid enough (co-written, but un-credited, by Peter Ustinov and blacklisted American screenwriter Frank Tarloff) but the film succeeds thanks to its cast. Terry-Thomas and Ian Carmichael rarely strayed from their well-trodden screen personas during their careers but they’re perfectly placed here, as is Alastair Sim as the disreputable tutor and Janette Scott as the sort of love interest whose affection changes as frequently as the wind. In smaller parts we have Hattie Jacques and her then husband John Le Mesurier (playing a snooty Maitre ‘D naturally) as well as Dennis Price and Peter Jones as a pair of disreputable car dealers. Its also so bona to vada the craggy eek of Hugh Paddick as the Lifemanship tutor in charge of the course on getting on well at parties.

A nice restoration on blu-ray, bolstered by interviews with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, Chris Potter (the son of Stehen Potter who wrote the books on which the film was loosely based) and noted biographer Graham McCann.