In Alexander Mackendrick’s swift, cynical Sweet Smell of Success, Burt Lancaster stars as barbaric Broadway gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker, and Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco, the unprincipled press agent he ropes into smearing the up-and-coming jazz musician romancing his beloved sister.
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Essential cinema. Classic script by Clifford Odets from an Ernest Lehman treatment/story revels in the evil that men do for selfish purposes. Unsuccessful on release the film has found its fans over the years. Lancaster and Curtis are both remarkable in unlikeable roles embracing the pettiness and lack of morality in their characters. Exceptionally shot by Howe and scored by Elmer Bernstein. Simply great.
Cinematography by James Wong Howe, music by Elmer Bernstein and Chico Hamilton Quintet. Now that so much is said about movies with political/social message and the most one gets are precarious exercises, here's how we get a milestone:with a voracious camera chasing and build the spaces around and between characters, running a permanent visual support of an extremely intelligent dialogue launched at the frame rate.
Wow. just wow. The jazz like rhythm, the awesome score, the performances, the individual great scenes, the script and dialogue and that ending. Only a film this insane can be this great. Undoubtedly influential on Scorsese especially Mean Streets. Plus, Susan Harrison is maybe the single most dazzling woman in any noir. In all, it ranks along with Touch of Evil as my favorite noir.
"tickle him a little, he's been a bad boy tonight." "i call him the boy with the ice cream face. i got eyes, i put things together." i find it very strange that this film isn't mentioned in the same breath as gilda and rope as a classic of queer subtext.
4 1/2 out of 5 stars. A truly beautiful movie about absolute ugliness. Sweet Smell of Success looks more noir than most noir & its dialogue is more biting than a rabid badger on PCP. Easily Lancaster & Curtis' best performances. The line Lancaster uses to describe Curtis' character about living in moral twilight says it all. Sadly this took a couple watches for me to fully appreciate but I got there.
Tedious, over-written, ultimately just plain dull. The dialogue keeps reaching and reaching for some ultra-cleverness ("I'd hate to take a bit out of you, Sidney, you're a cookie full of arsenic" oh please...) and Burt Lancaster's dreadful performance doesn't help.
A damning indictment on the vindictive, score-settling, Machiavellian nature of the news industry's predilection with smear and gossip. With great power comes great responsibility and with the platform to 'make news', integrity often remains in short supply; such power often can be a tool to further one's own agendas. Mackendrick's archetypal framing masters a representation of jealousy, control and revenge.