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Sweet Smell of Success (UA 1957, Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster)



New York’s a tough town, and this is one tough movie. A film-noir masterpiece that’s lit with the pulsing neon of Broadway, set in the world of tabloid gossip and populated with desperate characters who live on other people’s misery. Lancaster rules the newspaper columns, making and breaking careers from his corner table, and Curtis (in the finest performance of his career) prostrates himself at the big man’s feet, clawing for column inches for his clients. Curtis gets a shot at a PR flack’s dream, an open door for his items into Lancaster’s column–if he can stop a romance between Lancaster’s sister (Harrison) and a jazz musician (Milner). Terrific performances and moody atmospherics from famed cameraman Howe.

Ernest Lehman, whose novella Tell Me About It Tomorrow was adapted to the screen as Sweet Smell of Success, also wrote profiles of New York gossip columnists Dorothy Kilgallen and Walter Winchell, the inspiration for JJ Hunsecker.

production details
USA | United Artists | 96 minutes | 1957

Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Producer: James Hill
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Editor: Alan Crosland Jr.
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Script: Clifford Odets
Art Direction: Edward Carrere

Arthur Tovey as Elysian Club Patron
Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco
Bert Stevens as Patron at 21
Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker
Barbara Nichols as Rita
John Fiedler as Counterman at Hotdog Stand
Susan Harrison as Susan Hunsecker
Martin Milner as Steve Dallas
Sam Levene as Frank D’ Angelo
David White as Otis Elwell
Jeff Donnell as Sally
Edith Atwater as Mary
Joe Frisco as Herbie Temple
Emile Meyer as Lt. Harry Kello
Bess Flowers as Patron at ’21’
Colin Kenny as Patron at 21 (uncredited)
Lawrence Dobkin as Leo Bartha
William H. O’Brien as Waiter at 21