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Sweet Smell of Success


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One of the last true film noir pictures is perhaps the most sharply written screenplay out of all noir films. This has been a favorite of mine ever I saw it for the first time. It's so dynamic and tension-filled, that I'll venture to say that if you don't like this one: you're boring.

 

Elmer Bernstein's score sets the tone perfectly in each scene, and Burt Lancaster's performance as J.J. Hunsecker is-in my eyes-his most menacing and powerful portrayal. Tony Curtis is excellent too as Sidney Falco.

 

Seedy and corrupt are the characters and their environs; thus making for one hell of a cynical masterpiece. Based on Ernest Lehman's brilliant novel, and directed by Alexander Mackendrick, Sweet Smell of Success still remains timeless on nearly every level.

 

The dialogue is some of the most poignant ever written.

 

JJ HUNSECKER speaking of Sidney Falco(who is sitting right next to him when he says it) to Senator Walker, Linda Jones, and Manny Davis:

 

 

Sidney: Not right this minute, J.J.

 

"Mr. Falco, let it be said at once, is a man of forty faces, not one. None too pretty and all deceptive. You see that grin? That's the, uh, that's the charming street-urchin face. It's part of his helpless act. He throws himself upon your mercy. He's got a half-dozen faces for the ladies. But the one I like, the really cute one, is the quick, dependable chap - nothing he won't do for you in a pinch. So he says! Mr. Falco, whom I did not invite to sit at this table tonight, is a hungry press agent and fully up to all the tricks of his very slimy trade. (He turns with an unlit cigarette toward Sidney, gestures, and waits.) Match me, Sidney."

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This is one of my favorite Lancaster roles. Brilliantly written by Ernest Lehman.

Tony Curtis' finest hour as Sidney Falco. As cynical as it gets...

 

J.J. to Falco: I'd hate to take a bite outta you. You're a cookie full of arsenic.

 

 

vallo

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Very true about Curtis. It's obvious that given the right roles he could be wonderful. My favorite in that film is the poor, pathetic character played by Barbara Nichols. It's the old story - the price some have to pay.

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I like this movie a lot. All the good things people have said about it are true.

 

However, I have a problem with it that is my fault and not the movie's. I was a big reader of the "Bloom County" comic strip before I saw "Sweet Smell of Success." In "Bloom County," Steve Dallas is the name of the self-centered jerk everyone despises. So every time Steve Dallas (Martin Milner) is mentioned as the heroic jazz musician in "Sweet Smell of Success," I have an urge to laugh.

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Well, the screenwriter did do a very good job, but the movie is also well-directed and very well-acted. The performances by Lancaster and Curtis are among the very best in their careers. And I remember the photography as being quite striking, as befits such a story, in addition to also capturing the spirit of NYC at the time.

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>One thing that struck me was the great b&w cinematography of nighttime Broadway, circa 1950s. Never seen any better. <

 

Who else but Cinematography by James Wong Howe, could make the scenes that gritty in New york.

Kind of the way I remembered New York as a kid before Rudy Giuliani turned Times Square into Disney World Manhattan...

 

 

vallo

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