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The Secret of My Success (1987 film)

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Title: The Secret of My Success (1987 film)  
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Subject: Helen Slater, Oh Yeah (Yello song), 1987 in film, Jim Cash, Rick Aviles
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The Secret of My Success (1987 film)

The Secret of My Success
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Herbert Ross
Produced by Herbert Ross
Screenplay by Jim Cash
Jack Epps, Jr.
A.J. Carothers
Story by A.J. Carothers
Music by David Foster
Cinematography Carlo Di Palma
Edited by Paul Hirsch
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • April 10, 1987 (1987-04-10)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office US$110,996,879

The Secret of My Success (sometimes stylized as The Secret of My Succe$s) is a 1987 American comedy film produced and directed by Herbert Ross, and starring Michael J. Fox and Helen Slater. The screenplay was written by A.J. Carothers, Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. from a story written by Carothers.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Soundtrack 3
  • Reception 4
    • Critical response 4.1
    • Box office 4.2
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Brantley Foster (Michael J. Fox) is a recent graduate of Kansas State University who moves to New York City where he has landed a job as a financier. Upon arriving, he discovers that the company for which he is supposed to work has been taken over by a rival corporation. As a result, Brantley is laid off before he even starts working.

After several unsuccessful attempts to get another job, mostly because he is either overqualified or underqualified and has little experience, Brantley ends up working in the mailroom of the Pemrose Corporation, which is directed by his uncle, Howard Prescott (Richard Jordan), the CEO. Pemrose was founded by Howard's father-in-law; Howard received presidency of the company by marrying his boss's daughter, Vera Pemrose (Margaret Whitton).

Upon inspecting company reports, Brantley realizes that Howard and most of his fellow "suits" (executives) are making ineffective or detrimental decisions. After Brantley notices an empty office in the building due to one of Howard's frequent firings, he uses his access to the mailroom and his understanding of company processes to create the identity of Carlton Whitfield, a new executive. Brantley then assumes this role.

While handling two jobs (switching between casual wear and business suits in the elevator), Brantley also falls head-over-heels for Christy Wills (Helen Slater), a fellow financial wizard who recently graduated from Harvard. Brantley meets Vera after driving her home in a company limo (at his employer's request). Vera persuades Brantley to stay for a swim and seduces him. Upon seeing Howard arriving, Brantley and Vera realize they are related (albeit not by blood). Brantley then gets changed as fast as he can and leaves the mansion without being seen by Howard.

Howard, without Brantley's knowledge, is having an affair with Christy. When Howard asks her to spy on Carlton Whitfield, Christy falls head-over-heels for "Whitfield", not knowing he is actually Brantley. The Pemrose Corporation is preparing to merge with the infamous Davenport Corporation. Howard, unaware that Whitfield and Brantley are one and the same person, suspects "Whitfield" is a spy for corporate raider Donald Davenport (Fred Gwynne).

In the end, Brantley and Vera raise enough cash, bonds, and stocks to wrest ownership of the Pemrose Corporation from Howard, and to proceed with a hostile takeover bid of Davenport's Corporation. Vera, already contemptuous of Howard for his counter-productive business practices, which were driving her father's empire into the ground, learns that Howard has been cheating on her to boot. She promptly replaces him with Brantley, with Jean and Melrose at his side. While security guards escort Howard and his aide, Art Thomas (Gerry Bamman), from the Pemrose Building, Brantley and Christy start planning their future together, personal as well as professional.



Secret of My Success Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released April 10, 1987 (1987-04-10)
Genre Soundtrack
Label MCA Records
Producer David Foster
Neil Geraldo
Darryl Hall
Tom T-Bone Walk
Arthur Barrow

The soundtrack was released on LP and cassette tape on April 10, 1987.[1][2] Seven of the 10 tracks were produced and either written or co-written by David Foster, who also scored the film and has three tracks of his own on the album.

Not all of the songs featured in the film are included on the soundtrack, or, at least not in the same version. The film version of the song The Secret of My Success is slightly different, and also features a mini-instrumental version. The film version of "I Burn for You" does not feature vocals, whereas the soundtrack version does. The Restless Heart track from the film has a different title (Something I Gotta Do) and different lyrics than the soundtrack version.

Popular songs "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina & The Waves and "Oh Yeah" by Yello are heard in the film but do not appear on the soundtrack.

The Secret of My Success: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack peaked at #131 on the Billboard 200.[3]

Track listing
  1. "The Secret of My Success" (performed by Night Ranger)
  2. "Sometimes the Good Guys Finish First" (performed by Pat Benatar)
  3. "I Burn for You" (performed by Danny Peck and Nancy Shanks)
  4. "Riskin' a Romance" (performed by Bananarama)
  5. "Gazebo" (performed by David Foster)
  6. "The Price of Love" (performed by Roger Daltrey)
  7. "Water Fountain" (performed by David Foster)
  8. "Don't Ask the Reason Why" (performed by Restless Heart)
  9. "3 Themes" (performed by David Foster)
  10. "Heaven and the Heartaches" (performed by Taxxi)


Critical response

The film received a mixed response from critics. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "The Secret of My Success seems trapped in some kind of time warp, as if the screenplay had been in a drawer since the 1950s and nobody bothered to update it." He concluded "Fox provides a fairly desperate center for the film. It could not have been much fun for him to follow the movie's arbitrary shifts of mood, from sitcom to slapstick, from sex farce to boardroom brawls."[4]

However, Vincent Canby, writing in the New York Times, felt it was "close to inspired when the ambitious Brantley finds himself leading two lives", although he noted that "Hanging over The Secret of My Success is the long shadow of Frank Loesser's classic musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."[5]

The film holds a 58% 'rotten' rating at website Rotten Tomatoes.[6]

Box office

The film opened on April 10, 1987, and it debuted at number one at the box office, taking $7.8 million in its opening weekend.[7] It stayed at No.1 for 5 weeks, and was in the top ten films for 2 months. It grossed $66,995,000 in the US,[8] becoming the 7th highest grossing film in the United States for the year 1987, outgrossing such films as RoboCop, Predator, Lethal Weapon and Dirty Dancing. The film went on to gross an additional $44,001,000 worldwide, giving a gross total of $110,996,879.[9] Additionally, the film made US$29,856,000 on video rentals.[10]


  1. ^ at Amazon.comThe Secret of My Success: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack
  2. ^ credits"The Secret of My Success: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack". October 17, 1990 [1987]. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  3. ^ Billboard 200The Secret of My Success: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack at AllMusic. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 10, 1987). "The Secret Of My Success,". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  5. ^ Canby, Vincent (April 10, 1987). "The Secret Of My Success". New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "Secret Of My Success-critics rating". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster, Inc. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "Secret of My Success' No. 1 at the Box Office Spot". The New York Times. April 15, 1987. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  8. ^ "The Secret Of My Success box office figures". Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "The Secret Of My Success". Box Office Mojo.,Inc. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  10. ^ "The Secret Of My Success box office data". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 

External links

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