← Back to Reviews

Sweet Smell of Success

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Writers: Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison
Genre: Drama, Film Noir

(spoiler free): Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) is an unscrupulous, two-faced press agent, he will lie, beg, cheat or promise anything to get ahead in the world. His business is promoting clients names by getting them into the newspaper column of the famous Broadway columnist, J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster). J.J. is an egoistically man who's even more unethical than Falco. J.J. wields great power and can make or break a person's life with his newspaper column. J.J. forces Sidney to do a dirty job for him...breaking up his younger sisters romance with a jazz musician...by any means possible.

Review: I love this film! The dialogue snaps and sparkles with clever-tudes. Every word spoken either drives the plot forward, or expands the characters and their story. The dialogue is fast paced, yet nothing is superfluous. Every word has it's place and every action, every scene is designed to fill in the details. The film is powered by two fine actors both at odds with each other and yet both similar in their utter lack of morals. As the story unfolds we're swept up in this amazing world of power and greed, ballyhoo and empty promises.

Burt Lancaster is amazing as J.J. Hunsecker, the power driven columnist. He's cold, cruel, intelligent and full of self importance. Lancaster really brings this role to life.

But it's Tony Curtis who gives new meaning to dimension in his portrayal of a sleazy operator who calls himself a publicity agent. He's a man who wears many faces and can work every angle. I can't image a better actor for this role than Tony Curtis. Despite how low his character goes and what he's willing to do to the people around him....he's still likable.

The Sweet Smell of Success cinematographer is the celebrated James Wong Howe. Each camera shot is composed to enhance the story. The cinematography never gets in the way of the film. The music score is hot jazz, deep, moody and dangerous. It sets the feel of the movie from the very start of the title credits.

I've seen only a few films that I would deem flawless.
The Sweet Smell of Success is one of them.