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Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Approved | | Drama, Film-Noir | 4 July 1957 (USA)
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Powerful but unethical Broadway columnist J.J. Hunsecker coerces unscrupulous press agent Sidney Falco into breaking up his sister's romance with a jazz musician.

Writers:

Clifford Odets (screenplay), Ernest Lehman (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Burt Lancaster ... J.J. Hunsecker
Tony Curtis ... Sidney Falco
Susan Harrison ... Susan Hunsecker
Martin Milner ... Steve Dallas (as Marty Milner)
Jeff Donnell ... Sally
Sam Levene ... Frank D' Angelo
Joe Frisco ... Herbie Temple
Barbara Nichols ... Rita
Emile Meyer ... Lt. Harry Kello
Edith Atwater ... Mary
The Chico Hamilton Quintet ... The Chico Hamilton Quintet
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Storyline

J.J. Hunsecker, the most powerful newspaper columnist in New York, is determined to prevent his sister from marrying Steve Dallas, a jazz musician. He therefore covertly employs Sidney Falco, a sleazy and unscrupulous press agent, to break up the affair by any means possible. Written by David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Lie for it...cheat for it...drink to it...the sweet, sweet smell of success! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 July 1957 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sweet Smell of Success See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,600,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$7,336
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the first few minutes of the film, Falco grabs a newspaper, and steps into a snack bar. The clerk working behind the counter is played by John Fiedler (uncredited). Fiedler went to several roles in film and on Broadway. See more »

Goofs

When Sidney is trying to see the column in advance, the position of the secretary changes. This is when she moves the copy from one side of the desk to the other. See more »

Quotes

J.J. Hunsecker: I love this dirty town.
See more »

Crazy Credits

introducing Susan Harrison See more »

Connections

Referenced in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch: What Price Harvey? (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

 
It's a putrid smell after all
6 October 2007 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Tony Curtis learns the hard way about the "Sweet Smell of Success" in this 1957 film that stars Burt Lancaster, Sam Levene, Susan Harrison, and Barbara Nichols. In the pre-Internet days when the newspaper was king, the columnists ruled - Winchell, Ed Sullivan, Cholly Knickerbocker, Radie Harris, and let's not forget Hedda and Louella! But the King was Winchell, and while I don't think the Burt Lancaster character of J.J. Hunsecker is modeled on him, the power and control the man wielded certainly is.

Tony Curtis plays one of his best roles as Sidney Falco, a low-ranking press agent who is dependent on people like Hunsecker to mention his clients in their daily columns. But Sidney is on the outs with Hunsecker, a very bad place to be. Hunsecker has ordered Sidney to break up his sister Susan's relationship with a jazz musician, Steve (Martin Milner), and Susan is still seeing him. Sidney comes up with a plan to tear the two apart which probably would have worked, but when Steve stands up to J.J., Hunsecker is out for blood. He demands the plan be taken one step further and dangles an attractive carrot in front of Sidney to make it happen.

Done in black and white with most of the action taking place at night and often on the streets of Times Square, "The Sweet Smell of Success" has an atmosphere of slime and grit. The handsome Lancaster and Curtis are not particularly well photographed - it's not meant to be a glamorous picture. The dialogue is fast, to the point, and witty and the performances are breathtaking. Lancaster underplays the twisted Hunsecker so that his contempt for the people he writes about - and his sick attraction to his sister - can be clearly shown. He could have played it more along the lines of Curtis' Sidney - an obvious, manipulative rat - but it wouldn't have been as right as Lancaster's tightly-controlled J.J.

Curtis was born to play Sidney - an attractive, fast-talking man with no morals who plays both ends against the middle. He's a New York character, ideal for a New York guy like Curtis who grew up on the streets. Sidney is totally outrageous - he invites a cigarette girl to his apartment and then pimps her out to a columnist so he can get an item in his column; he tries blackmailing another columnist, but that backfires. It doesn't stop him from trying again.

The two victims of these piranhas are Susan and Steve, a young couple deeply in love who want to be married. Their simple story is told against a backdrop of scandal, revenge, manipulation and blackmail. Their situation makes the actions of J.J. and Sidney even seedier and more cruel than they already are.

"Sweet Smell of Success" has become a cult classic and was actually mounted at one point as a Broadway musical. Like "Nightmare Alley," it probably was too grim for audiences back then. Is anything too grim for audiences of today? Doubtful.


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