Sweet Smell of Success (1957) - Plot Summary Poster


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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.

  • 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.

  • J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster), is a tyrannical Broadway columnist for the New York Globe who rules his demimonde with the press's power to create or destroy. Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), is the hustling publicist who is consumed by desperate ambition and hates himself because of it; he will do anything to gain the admiration of Hunsecker ("My experience, in brief, is dog eat dog.") The film was shot in black and white by James Wong Howe, giving it a grittiness that underscores the class ranking among the characters. In the script by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, Falco's early prediction - "Every dog has its day" - comes crashingly true.

  • New York press agent Sidney Falco's livelihood, and by association those of his clients, are largely dependent upon getting those clients' names in the New York newspaper columns, most notably that of the most influential of all the New York columnists, J.J. Hunsecker. Sidney's livelihood is in jeopardy because J.J., a so-called "friend," asked Sidney to do him a favor which he couldn't accomplish, namely breaking up the relationship of his 19-year-old sister, Susan Hunsecker, toward whom J.J. is overprotective, and Steve Dallas, a jazz guitarist who leads his own combo. J.J. won't give Sidney or his clients the time of day until Sidney accomplishes this task. Sidney decides to use the only tool he truly has available to him in his professional life, regardless of the effect on Steve or Susie. Sidney worries about J.J.'s reaction, which he needn't have worried about as J.J. wants not only to break them up but to ruin Steve in the process for being this thorn in his side. Both Steve and Susie are aware of both Sidney and J.J.'s roles in what is happening around them, but they may feel helpless in getting themselves out from their predicament. The question becomes whether J.J., Sidney and Susie's individual relationships with the other two, and J.J. and Sidney's professional lives can survive what was meant as a means to bolster their own individual power.

  • Sidney Falco is a press agent. His livelihood depends on him getting coverage for his clients with influential newspaper columnists. The most influential is JJ Hunsecker and Falco would do anything to get in his good books. Currently he is trying to break up the relationship of Hunsecker's sister with a jazz guitarist that Hunsecker doesn't like. This leads to a Machiavellian plot and profound repercussions.



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