Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a 1988 American comedy film directed by Frank Oz and starring Steve Martin, Michael Caine and Glenne Headly. The screenplay was written by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro, and Paul Henning, it is a remake of the Shapiro and Henning script for the 1964 Marlon Brando/David Niven film Bedtime Story.

It is the story of two men competing to swindle an American heiress out of $50,000. Caine plays the suave, charming British con man Lawrence Jamieson, who believes in conning corrupt, rich people out of their money so he can spend it on culture and a lavish lifestyle. Martin plays his laddish, arrogant American rival, Freddy Benson, who believes in conning just about anyone in order to get a free meal. It takes place in the French Riviera.

Plot

Lawrence Jamieson is an intelligent and sophisticated British con artist operating in the French Riviera with the help of manservant Arthur and corrupt police official Andre. He seduces wealthy and morally suspect women and steals their money. His only concern is a con artist known as "The Jackal" who has been preying on other wealthy victims.

When underachieving American hustler Freddy Benson searches for easy marks in Beaumont-sur-Mer, Lawrence's home base, Lawrence believes the Jackal has shown his face. Worried that Freddy's inexperienced antics will scare away his prey, Lawrence has Freddy arrested and put on the next plane out of town. However, Freddy meets one of Lawrence's former marks and deduces that he is also a crook.

Returning to Beaumont-sur-Mer, Freddy forces Lawrence to take him on as a pupil in exchange for his silence. Lawrence attempts to teach Freddy about high culture with limited success. He also involves him as a subordinate player in his cons, making him play the mentally challenged and socially inept Ruprecht in order to scare away their female targets after their money has been acquired. Freddy, tired of not getting paid and the humiliating part he has to play, strikes out on his own.

Lawrence believes there are not enough potential victims in Beaumont-sur-Mer for both of them, so a bet is proposed to decide who will stay. The first to con $50,000 out of a selected mark may remain; the other must leave town. The two select Janet Colgate, a naive American heiress, and embark on their separate strategies while ruthlessly sabotaging each other. Freddy poses as a psychosomatically crippled U.S. Navy officer unable to walk after seeing his fiancee cheat on him with Dance U.S.A. host Deney Terrio, who needs to borrow $50,000 for treatment by the celebrated Liechtenstein psychiatrist Dr. Emil Shaffhausen. When Lawrence discovers this scheme he claims to be Dr. Shaffhausen, insisting Freddy's condition is one he can cure, stipulating that Janet pay the $50,000 fee directly to him.

Lawrence discovers that Janet is not wealthy but on vacation as a contest winner; she intends to liquidate most of her assets to pay for Freddy's treatment. Touched by Janet's kindness, Lawrence calls off the bet. Freddy agrees, but proposes a new bet: Janet herself, with the first to bed her declared the winner. Lawrence refuses to bed Janet; instead the bet will be whether or not Freddy can succeed.

Lawrence keeps Janet from having any time alone with Freddy in which they might consummate a relationship. With the help of some British sailors, Freddy waylays Lawrence and rushes to Janet's hotel room where he demonstrates his love by walking to her. However, Janet is not alone. Lawrence is present and declares Freddy cured of his ailment. Ushering Freddy out of the room he explains that the sailors released him after discovering that he is a Royal Naval Reserve officer. The sailors, angry at being duped by Freddy, keep him occupied at a party while Lawrence puts Janet on a plane to America. Despite his impending loss, Freddy becomes inebriated and enjoys the party.

The next day, instead of boarding her flight, Janet returns to her hotel room to find a repentant Freddy there. They kiss, close the door and begin undressing. The news reaches Lawrence and he accepts his defeat with grace. While Lawrence is waiting for Freddy to return and gloat over his victory, Janet arrives in tears. She tells him that Freddy stole the money her father sent. Lawrence compensates her with $50,000 of his own, calls Andre to have Freddy arrested, and takes Janet to the airport.

At the last minute before Janet boards the plane, she gives the bag to Lawrence, saying, "I can't take this. It doesn't belong to me." As the plane leaves, the police arrive with Freddy, wearing nothing but a bathrobe, who claims that Janet robbed the both of them, including stealing Freddy's clothes. Lawrence opens up the bag to find Freddy's clothes and, underneath, a note from Janet admitting to having taken the $50,000 and revealing herself to be the Jackal. Freddy is furious while Lawrence is impressed.

The following week, Freddy and Lawrence are at Lawrence's villa contemplating their loss. They are about to part company when the Jackal, posing as a New York City real estate developer, arrives in a yacht filled with wealthy people. She promptly has the shocked Lawrence and Freddy assume roles in her scheme and, after sending her guests off to refresh themselves, takes the pair aside and announces that while she made three million dollars the previous year, "[their] fifty thousand was the most fun". Joining arms, they set out to fleece their latest victims.

Cast




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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