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Bedtime Story: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Updated on December 3, 2014

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a 1988 American comedy film which stars Steve Martin, Michael Caine, and Glenne Headly. It is directed by Frank Oz. It is the story of two con men conned by a woman.

Lawrence Jamieson is a sophisticated British con artist who does his craft in the French Riviera. He is in cohorts with a police officer named Andre. His modus operandi is to seduce wealthy women to get into their money by pretending to be a Prince. He is concerned about a mysterious con artist known as “The Jackal” who is preying on wealthy victims lately.

A small-time American hustler named Freddy Benson happens to do his stuff around Beaumont-sur-Mer, the home base of Lawrence Jamieson who believes that Freddie Benson may be “The Jackal.” Freddy’s techniques lacks the elegance of Lawrence’s methods and gets him worried that this small-time con artist might scare away his prey, so Lawrence gets Freddy arrested and put on the next plane out of town. But Freddy meets a woman who supports the “Prince” in his quest to liberate his people. Freddy realizes that the old man is a professional con artist.

Freddy goes back to Lawrence and blackmails him into taking him as a student in exchange for his silence. Lawrence agrees and tries to teach Freddy some elegance and sophistication.

Freddy gets involved in Lawrence’s cons. He plays Ruprecht, the mentally retarded and socially inept brother of Lawrence. He is introduced to women who expect to be married to Lawrence after giving a sizable amount to him. After these women meet Ruprecht, they just call off the engagement.

When Freddy is not paid enough for his efforts, he decides to work on his own but Lawrence believes there is not enough room for two con artists in Beaumont-sur-Mer, so they agree on a wager. They select a mark and the first one to con $50,000 from that person wins and stays, while the loser leaves Beaumont-sur-Mer and never returns.

The chosen mark is a certain Janet Colgate, an American heiress, who is on vacation. Freddy poses as a US Army soldier on a wheelchair. He tells Janet that he needs $50,000 for treatment by the famous psychiatrist, Dr. Emil Shaffhausen.

Lawrence discovers Freddy’s scheme and poses as Dr. Shauffhausen. He tells Janet that he can treat Freddy but she has to pay the $50,000 directly to him.

Freddy is shocked when Janet brings Dr. Shauffhausen to him and the next scene is a nightmare to Freddy as Lawrence whips his legs because Freddy has claimed that he does not feel anything on them. From that time on, they ruthlessly sabotage each other while embarking on their own strategy to win Janet’s money.

Lawrence then discovers that Janet is not an heiress but a contest winner who gets the vacation as part of her prize. She promises to pay for Dr. Shauffhausen’s fee after her father sells all the prizes she has won in the contest. Lawrence calls off the bet and Freddy agrees but proposes another bet. Whoever gets Janet to bed wins but Lawrence refuses to go to bed with Janet. Instead, he bets on whether or not Freddy can succeed as he believes that Freddy is going to fail.

Lawrence keeps Janet away from Freddy but with the help of British sailors, Freddy waylays Lawrence, rushes to Janet’s hotel room and tries to walk to her only to find out that Lawrence is also in the room. The sailors have released him when they find out that he is a Royal Navy Reserves officer.

Lawrence gets the sailors to keep Freddy occupied at a party while he puts Janet on a plane back to America but she returns to her hotel room where she reunites with Freddy. When Lawrence discovers what happened, he accepts his defeat with grace.

Later, a tearful Janet arrives and tells him that Freddy has stolen the money her father has sent her. Lawrence gives her the $50,000 to compensate for what Freddy has stolen. He calls Andre to arrest Freddy, and takes Janet to the airport.

Before she boards her plane, Janet returns the bag containing the money to Lawrence and says she cannot take it. As the plane takes off, the police arrive with Freddy in a bathrobe who claims that Janet has robbed them including his clothes.

When Lawrence opens the bag of money, only Freddy’s clothes are inside with a note that says she has taken the $50,000 and signed “The Jackal.” Freddy is enraged but Lawrence is impressed.

The following week, the two con men are at Lawrence’s villa reminiscing about their loss in the hands of the Jackal. They agree to part ways when a yacht arrives. The Jackal, disguised as a New York real estate developer brings wealthy people to the villa. The shocked duo is promptly given roles in her scheme to con these people. She tells them that she “made three million dollars the previous year, but their fifty thousand was the most fun.” They ended up being partners with the latest scam of the Jackal.

Main Cast

Steve Martin as Freddy Benson

Michael Caine as Lawrence Jamieson

Glenne Headly as Janet Colgate

Bedtime Story 1964

Bedtime Story, a 1964 comedy film which becomes the basis for the remake of 1988 comedy film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It is directed by Ralph Levy and stars Marlon Brando, David Niven, and Shirley Jones.

The remake Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has not strayed away from the original story much except for the totally different ending. The story is the same, the names of the characters are the same, except for a few minor changes in spelling and the family name of Janet Walker which becomes Janet Colgate in the 1988 remake.

In Bedtime Story, there is some sort of a love story included in the plot, but I find the ending of its remake way, way, more fun than the 1964 Bedtime Story. I also wonder why it is titled Bedtime Story when it is a story of con artists. Perhaps because it started with “once there was a prince who lived in a palace” except that he is not really a prince and it is not a palace but a chateau.

Anyway, the story is about con artists. One pretends to be the deposed prince of a small country who seduces wealthy women to donate money and jewelry to help his “people.” His name is Lawrence Jameson. The other one is Freddy Benson who cons his way into the hearts and money of young women.

The two meet and after some jail time and blackmails, Freddy Benson becomes Lawrence’s young retarded prince brother. When Freddy becomes discontented with his share of the money they earned, he decides to be on his own. Lawrence wants him to leave the area but Freddy comes up with a bet. The object of their bet is Janet Walker, an American heiress. Whoever cons $25,000 from her first, wins the bet and the loser leaves.

When Lawrence learns that Janet is not the rich heiress that they thought she is, he calls off the bet but Freddy wants another bet where Janet herself is the object. Whoever gets to bed with her first, wins. Lawrence does not want any of it but he bets that Freddy can never get Janet to bed.

After so many strategies on both sides, it seems that Freddy gets the upper hand. Janet falls in love with him and Lawrence accepts defeat. But when Freddy shows up, he confesses that he is in love with Janet and he has married her and is going to stop conning women. They are going back to America where he is going to work in the soap company where Janet works.

In the end, Lawrence feels that Freddy wins by finding love with Janet, while he is going to wallow in his misery by seducing women as the Prince who needs money for his people.

Main Cast

Marlon Brando as Freddy Benson

David Niven as Lawrence Jamieson

Shirley Jones as Janet Walker


The original 1964 version ends with Freddy Benson and Janet Walker sailing into the moonlight, but the ending of the 1988 remake has a better and funnier twist.

I give it to Marlon Brando to have played the character of Freddy Benson quite well but unfortunately, he is pitted against Steve Martin who did not have to try real hard to be funny. Brando makes me feel that he is the villain in the story. Steve Martin, though making Lawrence’s life miserable still makes it amusing so I do not take it against him.

Michael Caine and David Niven are both perfect as the sophisticated con man, and Glenne Headly is perfect for Janet Colgate. She could have been a good Janet Walker as well.

All in all, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is better than the Bedtime Story. Both are funny but the ending is the clincher. If anyone wants to watch both versions, I recommend you watch the original before the remake to avoid disappointments. Or better yet, just watch the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.


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