School for Scoundrels (1960)

School for Scoundrels (1960)

“He who is not one up is one down.”

A meek executive (Ian Carmichael) seeking assistance from the head of the School of Lifemanship (Alastair Sim) shares his story of falling in love with a beautiful young woman (Janette Scott) who is seduced away from him by a slick competitor (Terry-Thomas) with a sportscar. Will Henry (Carmichael) learn enough “ploys” to be able to earn back both his self-respect and the object of his affections?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alastair Sim Films
  • Character Arc
  • Comedy
  • Love Triangle
  • Mentors
  • Rivalry

This adaptation (by director Robert Hamer) of Stephen Potter’s “Gamesmanship” books remains a delightful British comedy featuring plum roles for top talent of the day (Sim, Thomas, Carmichael, and Scott). While it’s initially painful watching Carmichael being taken advantage of left and right — particularly when he (very stupidly) buys a lemon of a car without even giving it a test drive — the storyline nicely loops back to show Carmichael using his newfound skills to fight back against each and every one of his multiple nemeses.

Dennis Price and Peter Jones nail their supporting roles as shady car salesmen ultimately taken in by their own rhetoric, and Terry-Thomas is so consistently insufferable that we take great delight at his increasing frustration later in the film.

Meanwhile, Scott is delightful as the men’s object of romantic interest:

… and Sim steals the show in his crucial role as Carmichael’s personal mentor.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Ian Carmichael as Henry Palfrey
  • Terry-Thomas as Raymond
  • Janette Scott as April
  • Alastair Sim as Mr. Potter
  • Dennis Price and Peter Jones as two supremely shady car salesmen
  • Many humorous sequences

Must See?
Yes, as a fun cult favorite. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


  • Cult Movie
  • Good Show


3 thoughts on “School for Scoundrels (1960)

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Cast-iron UK comedy soufflé classic gets better and better year on year. The first half sets up Palfrey as an absolute drip but things soon change as Thomas gets his just deserts.

    An absolute gem with plenty of Terry-Thomas-isms: “Hard cheese!”, “Ready now?” The two tennis matches – the first where Thomas wins, the second where Carmichael wins – are tremendous comedy set pieces. Also, don’t miss Dennis Price and Peter Jones as the definitive dodgy UK car salesmen!

    And you can’t beat the fourth-wall breaking ending!

    Trivia: Co-written by Hal E. Chester, producer of the classic Night of the Demon (1957).

    Definitely a must see for FFs as a classic example of UK comedy of the era.

  2. First viewing (9/29/20). Skip it.

    *Very* mildly amusing comedy which tries too hard in making its point and is not all that convincing on its own terms. A shame; it had possibilities but it’s mostly disappointing and at times boring. Sad to see Sim under-used. The ending – though well-meaning – is just… strange.

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