Sweet Smell of Success

Sweet Smell of Success

4.6 6
Director: Alexander MacKendrick

Cast: Alexander MacKendrick, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison

     
 

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Ernest Lehman drew upon his experiences as a Broadway press agent to write the devastating a clef short story "Tell Me About Tomorrow." This in turn was adapted by Lehman and Clifford Odets into the sharp-edged, penetrating feature film Sweet Smell of Success. See more details below

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Overview

Ernest Lehman drew upon his experiences as a Broadway press agent to write the devastating a clef short story "Tell Me About Tomorrow." This in turn was adapted by Lehman and Clifford Odets into the sharp-edged, penetrating feature film Sweet Smell of Success. Burt Lancaster stars as J. J. Hunsecker, a Walter Winchell-style columnist who wields his power like a club, steamrolling friends and enemies alike. Tony Curtis co-stars as Sidney Falco, a sycophantic press agent who'd sell his grandmother to get an item into Hunsecker's popular newspaper column. Hunsecker enlists Falco's aid in ruining the reputation of jazz guitarist Steve Dallas (Martin Milner), who has had the temerity to court Hunsecker's sister Susan (Susan Harrison). Falco contrives to plant marijuana on Dallas, then summons corrupt, sadistic NYPD officer Harry Kello (Emile Meyer), who owes Hunsecker several favors, to arrest the innocent singer. The scheme eventually boomerangs, resulting in disaster for both Hunsecker and (especially) Falco. The real Walter Winchell, no longer as powerful as he'd been in the 1940s but still a man to be reckoned with, went after Ernest Lehman with both barrels upon the release of Sweet Smell of Success. Winchell was not so much offended by the unflattering portrait of himself as by the dredging up of an unpleasant domestic incident from his past. While Success was not a success at the box office, it is now regarded as a model of street-smart cinematic cynicism. The electric performances of the stars are matched by the taut direction of Alex MacKendrick, the driving jazz score of Elmer Bernstein, and the evocative nocturnal camerawork of James Wong Howe.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
A late New York City noir skillfully helmed by a director renowned for his British comedies, Sweet Smell of Success is a tasty cinematic cookie full of arsenic. With James Wong Howe's peerlessly sleek location monochrome photography setting the nocturnal mood of New York's lost theaters and nightclubs, Alexander Mackendrick guides his stars to career performances as the dregs of celebrity culture. Eschewing his trademark box-office grin, producer/star Burt Lancaster cunningly plays dirty as sublimely malevolent right-wing columnist J.J. Hunsecker, biting off Clifford Odets-Ernest Lehman bon mots in his distinctively clipped manner. Co-star Tony Curtis is excellent as weaselly, grasping press agent Sidney Falco, painfully revealing how low a 1950s climber would go for the titular odor. Though a de facto N.Y.C. companion to Billy Wilder's equally superb and mordant West Coast showbiz exposé Sunset Boulevard (1950), Sweet Smell suffered an ignominious contemporary fate more akin to Wilder's acid press satire Ace in the Hole (1951). Since then, Sweet Smell of Success has aged gracefully into a masterwork; it was adapted not so gracefully as a Broadway musical in 2002.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/22/2011
UPC:
0715515067911
Original Release:
1957
Rating:
NR
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
A
Presentation:
[B&W, Wide Screen]
Time:
1:36:00
Sales rank:
23,629

Special Features

New audio commentary featuring film scholar James Naremore; Mackendrick: The Man Who Walked Away, a 1986 documentary featuring interviews with director Alexander Mackendrick, actor Burt Lancaster, producer James Hill, and others; James Wong Howe: Cinematographer, a 1973 documentary about the Oscar-winning director of photography, featuring lighting tutorials with Howe; New video interview with film critic and historian Neal Gabler (Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture Celebrity) about legendary columnist Walter Winchell, inspiration for the character J. J. Hunsecker; New video interview with film-maker James Mangold about Mackendrick, his instructor and mentor; Original theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Burt Lancaster J.J. Hunsecker
Tony Curtis Sidney Falco
Susan Harrison Susan Hunsecker
Martin Milner Steve Dallas
Sam Levene Frank D'Angelo
Barbara Nichols Rita
Jeff Donnell Sally
Joseph Leon Robard
Edith Atwater Mary
Emile G. Meyer Harry Kello
Joe Frisco Herbie Temple
David White Otis Elwell
Lawrence Dobkin Leo Bartha
Lurene Tuttle Mrs. Bartha
Queenie Smith Mildred Tam
Autumn Russell Linda
Jay Adler Manny Davis
Lewis Charles Al Evans
Chico Hamilton Actor
Chico Hamilton Quintet Actor

Technical Credits
Alexander MacKendrick Director
Elmer Bernstein Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Edward Boyle Set Decoration/Design
Edward Carrere Art Director
Alan Crosland Editor
Mary Grant Costumes/Costume Designer
Chico Hamilton Songwriter
James Hill Producer
James Wong Howe Cinematographer
Fred Katz Songwriter
Ernest Lehman Screenwriter
Richard McWhorter Production Manager
Clifford Odets Screenwriter
Robert J. Schiffer Makeup
Jack Solomon Sound/Sound Designer

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