Sweet Smell of Success

Directed by Alexander Mackendrick

British director Mackendrick left behind Ealing comedies for this classic American noir. Tony Curtis plays Sidney Falco, a young hustler working for monstrous newspaper columnist J. J. Hunsecker. Hunsecker enlists Falco’s help in ruining the reputation of jazz guitarist Steve Dallas, who has had the temerity to court his sister. His evil towers over proceedings as the corruption mounts and the story darkens.

Chosen for My Noir by

Henriette Huldisch, curator at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin:

“I saw Alexander Mackendrick’s superbly caustic movie, his first American one, upon it’s re-release in 2002 and loved it. Filmed on location in the mid-town Manhattan of the 1950s, off a script by playwright Clifford Odets that was often delivered to the set on the day of shooting, the noirish nighttime scenes and accompanying jazz score capture the frenetic energy and less than savory underbelly of the entertainment business. Cast against their images, much to the dislike of audiences at the time, Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis shine as equally unsympathetic characters, unscrupulous gossip columnist and slimy press agent respectively. The film’s real delight is its deadpan, hardboiled dialogue, among whose many quotable lines is J.J. Hunsecker’s (Lancaster) declaration that he’d hate take a bite out of Sidney Falco (Curtis): “You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”

96 minutes


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