A sensationally biting satire which is so good it leaves a bitter after taste a few days later. Burt Lancaster is monumental - scary, sadistic and cool while Tony Curtis plays his puppet who pretends to wrestle with what remains of his conscience. Both are superb and the script is perhaps one of the all time greats. 5 stars.
In bustling New York of the late 50s, J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) is the ruthless proprietor of an influential newspaper and is worried that his young sister Susan (Susan Harrison) is romantically attached to Steve Dallas (Martin Milner) an aspiring jazz guitarist. J.J. orders Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) his handsome but unscrupulous press agent to break up the romance. Falco spreads false rumors in a rival column that Dallas is a dope-smoker. The latter meets J.J., insults him and Susan breaks up with Dallas in order to protect him from her brother. J.J. then orders Falco to plant reefers on Dallas and have him arrested and roughed up by Harry Kello (Emile Meyer), a corrupt police officer. Falco is summoned to the penthouse of J.J., finds a disheveled Susan about to attempt suicide and saves her just as her brother walks in but J.J. accuses him of trying to rape Susan in a climactic confrontation. The excellent DVD is in stark black and white and the film is littered with sardonic dialogue such as ???Falco is like a cookie full of arsenic??? and ???You walk like a blind man without a cane???. The brilliant acting by Lancaster (of Desert Fury fame) as the cool but cruel influential man and Tony Curtis (of Spartacus fame) as the press agent fully devoid of scruples is worth seeing.
This is now my top film to hand to those who say to me "Black and white films are boring and lame and old". Cracking performances, sharp dialogue, straight-shooting direction and a killer story add up to a film that is now one of my favourites. I'm very tempted to buy it.
The best thing about The Sweet Smell of Success is the New York street scenes from the 1950s. They shine like a neon dream and in crisp black & white look like an art print come to life. There is much else to like about this film, particularly the performances of Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster. Lancaster is JJ Hunsecker, a powerful gossip columnist, modelled on a real-life columnist of the time, one Walter Winchell. If you find it hard to believe, as I did, that a gossip columnist can wield such power just think of the likes of Alan Jones and John Laws to put it in a contemporary Australian setting. These men wield great power from their bully pulpits and are no more than the gossip columnists of the day. Neither Hunsecker nor Falco, the character played by Curtis have a skerrick of morality and its not giving away much to say that they end up paying a high price. There are stylish scenes and much cracking dialogue to be enjoyed along the way.
Tight plot and fantastic direction. One of the best movies ever made. Rent it now!
Two nastier people, power broker J. J. Hunsecker and power seeking Sidney Falco you wouldn’t want to know. Lancaster and Curtis give commanding performances you’ll just love to hate: the former as a shrewd syndicated society columnist dominates with menacing glare, steely resolve and vicious put downs delivered with punch-like force, the latter as an immaculately attired but morally grubby press agent never letting decent feelings interfere with his schemes to succeed. Both actors are aided by incisive razor sharp dialogue, and brilliant black and white photography of New York’s 1957 cityscape. Ever reliable Elmer Bernstein’s score is outstanding and little known director Alexander Mackendrick's direction is exceptional. Four and a half stars.
We enjoyed this as a classic of its day. Fast-paced and dialogue that zings with unexpected angles that ring true. I think the Cohen Bros must have this as one of their favourites!
Didn't like this movie at all! The dialogue was weak to put it mildly and the whole plot silly and unbelievable. We were surprised to see Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis in such a poor movie.