Lawrence Jamieson is an intelligent and sophisticated British con artist operating in Beaumont-sur-Mer on 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 another con artist known as “The Jackal” who has been reported in the area.
Returning home on a train, Lawrence meets small-time American hustler Freddy Benson, who brags about his meager accomplishments. Worried that Freddy’s inexperienced antics will scare away his prey, Lawrence first attempts to trick Freddy into choosing a different destination, then has him 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, and returning to Beaumont-sur-Mer, blackmails Lawrence into taking him on as a pupil.
Lawrence first attempts to teach Freddy style and refinement, with limited success. He then involves Freddy in his cons, playing his mentally challenged and socially inept brother Ruprecht in order to scare away women Lawrence has seduced after their money has been acquired. When Lawrence refuses to give Freddy a cut of the profits, tired of the humiliating part he has to play, Freddy strikes out on his own.
Lawrence is unwilling to share his territory with Freddy, so the two agree on a bet: the first to con $50,000 out of a selected mark wins, and the other must leave town. The two select Janet Colgate, a naive American heiress who just arrived in town, as their target. Freddy poses as a psychosomatically crippled U.S. Navy veteran who needs to borrow $50,000 for treatment by the celebrated Liechtenstein psychiatrist Dr. Emil Schaffhausen. When Janet shows sympathy to Freddy, Lawrence poses as Dr. Schaffhausen, agreeing to treat Freddy, but stipulating that Janet pay the $50,000 fee directly to him.
When Lawrence discovers that Janet is not a wealthy heiress but a contest winner on a paid vacation, and will have to liquidate most of her assets to pay for Freddy’s treatment, he attempts to call off the bet. Freddy counters with a new bet: Janet herself, with the first to bed her declared the winner. Lawrence refuses to seduce Janet, but bets instead that Freddy will fail to do so.
Under the guise of continuing Freddy’s treatment, Lawrence dances with Janet and taunts Freddy, raising the ire of some nearby British sailors, whom Freddy is able to convince to waylay Lawrence. He rushes to Janet’s hotel room, where he demonstrates his love by standing and walking to her. However, Lawrence has secretly been present the whole time and declares Freddy cured. Ushering Freddy out of the room he explains that the sailors released him after discovering that he is a Royal Naval Reserve officer. Instead, Lawrence leaves Freddy with the sailors to keep him occupied while Lawrence puts Janet on a plane to America.
The next day, instead of boarding her flight, Janet returns to her hotel room to find Freddy there. She declares her love for him, and they kiss and begin undressing. The news reaches Lawrence, who accepts his defeat with grace. Lawrence waits for Freddy to return and gloat over his victory, but Janet arrives in tears instead. 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.
As Janet is about to board the plane, she returns Lawrence’s bag, refusing to take his money, and departs. The police arrive with Freddy, wearing nothing but a bathrobe, who claims that Janet stole his wallet and 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 prompts the shocked Lawrence and Freddy to 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.
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 educated and suave British con man Lawrence Jamieson, who stages elaborate ruses to acquire the wealth of rich women, so he can spend it on culture and a lavish lifestyle. Martin plays his less-refined American rival, Freddy Benson, a small-time trickster on the hunt for free meals and twenty-dollar bills. It takes place on the French Riviera.