Cast & Crew
Edward Everett Horton
Energetic opportunist Dwight Dawson teaches a high-powered system that promises to turn his pupils into successful businessmen. His own business is suffering due to lack of enrollment, however, and Dwight and his partner, Horace Hunter, are despondent until the publicity director, Claire Harris, who is also Dwight's fiancée, suggests sponsoring a contest to find the biggest failure in the United States. They announce a prize of five hundred dollars plus enrollment in the course, hoping that the ensuing publicity will popularize the Dawson system. After receiving thousands of entries, they select Thadeus Winship Page, a small-town man who rents out fishing boats during the summer. Tad travels from Upper White Eddy, Vermont to New York City to collect his prize money, with which he intends to buy a fire-engine for his hometown. Tad, who is content with his relaxed lifestyle, does not want to take Dwight's course, and so Dwight, who needs the publicity, asks Claire to show him the glamour of big-city life. During the evening, Tad falls in love with Claire and agrees to take Dwight's classes in order to be near her. As time passes, Claire realizes that the gentle Tad is not at all a "jerk," as she and Dwight had dubbed him. Tad confesses that he is in love, but because he is too shy to tell Claire the whole truth, he tells her that the object of his affections is a hometown girl named "Hazel." Claire informs Dwight about the confession, and Dwight plays on Tad's feelings, telling him that he must become a success in order to give Hazel comfort and security. Tad succumbs to Dwight's pressure and attends classes, but soon decides to quit when he learns that Claire is also in love, although she does not get a chance to tell him that her beau is Dwight. Dwight, who has learned from Tad that Claire is "Hazel," convinces him that he must work to win Claire away from her boyfriend, whom Dwight says is short, fat and incompetent. As Tad studies harder, various magazines begin to cover his progress, and enrollment at the school increases. For a big story for Now Magazine , Dwight decides that Tad must obtain a job, and has Claire get him a job selling life insurance. Rather than tell Tad that he has the job, however, Dwight insists that he interview for it so that he will be persuaded that he won the job through Dawson strategies. Tad's enthusiasm wanes as he cannot sell any policies, and in order to forestall his quitting before the magazine article comes out, Dwight arranges for a business friend, Frank Mitchell, to order a big policy. Unknown to Tad or Claire, Frank has a high blood pressure condition that has prevented him from passing the necessary physical for four previous policies he has tried to buy. That evening, Tad proposes to Claire, and when she tells him that although she thinks she loves him, she is engaged to Dwight, Tad mistakenly believes that she has been deliberately deceiving him. The next day, Tad also learns about Frank's condition, but uses his unique relaxation techniques to lower Frank's blood pressure so that he can pass the physical and purchase the policy. Tad then goes to the school's office, where he overhears Claire castigating Dwight for treating him so shabbily. When Tad hears Claire declare her love for him, he slips out and picks up the fire-engine that he has purchased with his commission on Frank's policy. Tad meets Claire outside the office, and the happy couple drive off in the fire engine. Soon after, Dwight becomes a successful instructor of a relaxation class, using methods he learned from Tad.
Edward Everett Horton
Hal K. Dawson
W. D. Flick
Wiard B. Ihnen
Darryl F. Zanuck
I've known a lot of go-getters. I've been pallbearer to about ten of 'em. They're just so darn busy goin' and gettin', they didn't have time to breathe.- Tad Page
Oh no, I've got no respect for anybody who was born lazy. That's like being born a king. They didn't do anything to get there. Oh, I had to develop it. Took me a long time to get where I am.- Tad Page
That kiss took five years off my life... ...hey, careful, I'll be too young to vote!- Dwight Dawson
The working titles of this film were Lazy Galahad, Strictly Dynamite and The Magnificent Jerk. A July 24, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that a picture entitled The Beautiful Dope, starring George Montgomery and Mary Beth Hughes, was to be scripted by Walter Bullock and produced by Ralph Dietrich, but it seems unlikely that the item was referring to this picture. A April 27, 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Twentieth Century-Fox had changed the picture's title from The Magnificent Jerk to The Magnificent Stupe, due to "Hays Office objection." The film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, however, does not contain any complaints by the PCA about the word "jerk" in either the title or dialogue.
A May 23, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Saturday Evening Post was going to publish a serialization of Joseph Schrank's original screen story, entitled "Lazy Galahad," which he was to rewrite in novel form. The Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, contained at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, do not indicate that Schrank rewrote his story or that it appeared in Saturday Evening Post, however. The news item also stated that Nunnally Johnson was originally scheduled to produce the picture, as well as write the screenplay. In July 1941, Hollywood Reporter announced that Allan Scott was working on the screenplay, but the extent of his contribution to the finished film, along with Johnson's, has not been confirmed. An August 8, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item asserted that the studio was trying to sign Barton MacLane for a role in the picture. According to a April 3, 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item, Iris Adrian was cast in the picture, but her appearance in the finished film has not been confirmed. Hollywood Reporter news items also noted that production on the picture was shut down from 17 March to March 30, 1942 after Henry Fonda broke his finger while operating a tractor at home. Production on the picture resumed when Fonda began wearing smaller splints, which could be hidden from the camera. According to Hollywood Reporter, some scenes were shot on location in Sherwood Forest, CA. Fonda and Don Ameche starred in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story on September 28, 1942.