A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to rekindle his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.
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>
In addition to all of the behind-the-scenes stresses for the filmmakers, shooting on location in New York City was made more difficult by large crowds of groupies for then-heartthrob Tony Curtis that would show up and try to break through barricades to get near him. See more »
Right at the start of the movie (2:34) when Sidney peruses J.J. Hunsecker's 'The Eyes of Broadway' column on page 21 of the New York Globe newspaper, it can clearly be seen that several of the paragraphs are repeated. Of the nine paragraphs visible, it can be seen that paragraph 7 is an exact copy of paragraph 2; 8 is a copy of 5, and 9 is a copy of 4. See more »
If it's true, J.J.'s gonna hit the ceiling.
Can it be news to you that J.J.'s ceiling needs a new plaster job every six weeks?
See more »
The main characters in "Sweet Smell Of Success" are two of the most unpleasant, unprincipled and unsympathetic people imaginable. Both are utterly corrupt and would do whatever it takes to achieve their own perverse ends.
J J Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) is a gossip columnist who wields enormous power in New York and has the ability to make or break the careers of anyone who features in his articles. He plies his vicious trade without any concern for those whose lives he damages and frequently influences people to do his bidding by threatening to expose some unflattering or scandalous information about them. Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) is a press agent who makes his living by providing material for Hunsecker's column. When Hunsecker becomes unhappy about a relationship that has developed between his sister and a jazz guitarist, he orders Falco to do whatever's necessary to break them up. Hunsecker racks up the pressure on Falco by not accepting any of his contributions for the column until he succeeds in his mission.
Hunsecker's power and threatening manner preclude him from having any genuine or meaningful relationships with other people. He is unconcerned about this but has an unnaturally close relationship with his sister, who on various occasions, he describes as being all that he's got.
In his efforts to get a smear about the guitarist published, Falco threatens to blackmail one columnist by telling his wife about one of his indiscretions with a cigarette girl and also provides another columnist with an inducement to print the story by getting his girlfriend to prostitute herself. He later plants marijuana in the guitarist's pocket and tips off a corrupt police officer who has the guitarist arrested.
Hunsecker thrives on the amount of power and control that he is able to use and it's ironic that he has such a hard time using his power successfully in the area of his life which is most personal and important to him.
"Sweet Smell Of Success" is expertly directed by Alexander Mackendrick and the story and it's characters are considerably more original in nature than those found in the vast majority of movies. The dialogue is impressively incisive throughout and some of the remarks made by Hunsecker are delivered with great panache. When he says "I love this dirty town", the comment exemplifies what he's all about and also highlights the source of his power. His remarks that Falco is a "cookie full of arsenic" and "lives in moral twilight" are typical quick-fire put-downs. These and his "40 faces speech" could seem pretentious and contrived if uttered by some characters but sound perfectly credible when said by Hunsecker, who is clearly very literate and well practised in coining such bitter and brutal insults. Lancaster and Curtis both contribute exceptional performances which must rank among the greatest achieved in their illustrious careers.
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