THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Production: Norma-Curtleigh Production; black and white, 35mm; running time: 96 minutes, press screening was 103 minutes. Released 27 June 1957 by United Artists. Filmed Spring 1957 in New York City.
Producer: James Hill, a Hecht-Hill-Lancaster presentation; screenplay: Clifford Odets, adapted by Ernest Lehman, from the short story "Tell Me About It Tomorrow" by Ernest Lehman; photography: James Wong Howe; editor: Alan Crosland, Jr.; sound: Jack Solomon; art director: Edward Carrere; music: Elmer Bernstein.
Burt Lancaster (
J. J. Hunsecker
); Tony Curtis (
); Susan Harrison (
); Sam Levene (
); Barbara Nicholls (
); Martin Milner (
); Jeff Donnell (
); Joseph Leon (
); Edith Atwater (
); Emile Meyer (
); Joe Frisco (
); David White (
); Lawrence Dobkin (
); Lurene Tuttle (
); Queenie Smith (
); Autumn Russell (
); Jay Adler (
); Lewis Charles (
Silver, Alain, and Elizabeth Ward, editors, Film Noir , New York, 1979.
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Weiler, A. H., in New York Times , 27 June 1957.
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* * *
One of the most original and off-beat films to be labelled a film noir , The Sweet Smell of Success takes a cynical bite at the underbelly of the New York publicity game. As Sidney Falco, a thoroughly ruthless and utterly amoral press agent scrambling for his place in the sun, Tony Curtis gives the performance of his career—charming yet sleazy, ingratiating yet duplicitous. Falco aspires to a position of influence in the orbit of J. J. Hunsecker, king of the gossip pen. As impeccably played by Burt Lancaster, Hunsecker is a smooth, cold-blooded mudslinger; crewcut, single and implicitly gay; more ruthless than Falco, yet completely unsullied. The bittersweet irony of the film is that, for all of Falco's slimy dealings, it is he (and his type) who ends up doing Hunsecker's dirty work.
To curry Hunsecker's favor, Falco sets out to break up the relationship between the columnist's sister (to whom Hunsecker has more than a brotherly attachment) and a young jazz musician by circulating accusations that the musician is a Communist and a drug