Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Film-Noir  |  27 June 1957 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 18,763 users   Metascore: 100/100
Reviews: 108 user | 99 critic | 5 from Metacritic.com

Powerful but unethical Broadway columnist J.J. Hunsecker coerces unscrupulous press agent Sidney Falco into breaking up his sister's romance with a jazz musician.


(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Airs Tue. Dec. 08, 10:30 PM on TCM

Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Susan Harrison ...
Susan Hunsecker
Steve Dallas (as Marty Milner)
Jeff Donnell ...
Sam Levene ...
Frank D' Angelo
Joe Frisco ...
Herbie Temple
Emile Meyer ...
Lt. Harry Kello
Edith Atwater ...
The Chico Hamilton Quintet ...


J.J. Hunsecker, the most powerful newspaper columnist in New York, is determined to prevent his sister from marrying Steve Dallas, a jazz musician. He therefore covertly employs Sidney Falco, a sleazy and unscrupulous press agent, to break up the affair by any means possible. Written by David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They know him - and they shiver - the big names of Broadway, Hollywood and Capitol Hill. They know J.J.- the world-famed columnist whose gossip is gospel to sixty million readers! They know the venom that flickers in those eyes behind the glasses - and they fawn - like Sid Falco, the kid who wanted "in" so much, he'd sell out his own girl to stand up there with J.J., sucking in the sweet smell of success! This is J.J.'s story - but not the way he would have liked it told! See more »


Drama | Film-Noir


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 June 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dein Schicksal in meiner Hand  »

Box Office


$2,600,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Hunsecker's apartment building is actually the show-business office tower at 1619 Broadway, also known as the Brill Bldg., a famous part of Tin Pan Alley. See more »


Susan's coat when she's saying goodbye to Steve in the coffee shop towards the end of the movie. In one shot it's around only one of her shoulders, in the previous and next shots it's around both. See more »


J.J. Hunsecker: Mr. Falco, let it be said at once, is a man of 40 faces, not one - none too pretty, and all deceptive. You see that grin? That's the, eh, that's the Charming Street Urchin face. It's part of his helpless act: he throws himself upon your mercy. He's got a half-dozen faces for the ladies. But the one I like, the really cute one, is the quick, dependable chap. Nothing he won't do for you in a pinch - so he says. Mr. Falco, whom I did not invite to sit at this table tonight, is a hungry press agent...
See more »


Referenced in Pushing Daisies: Smell of Success (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

Burt Lancaster is scary!
28 December 2003 | by (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

Remember how scary Robert Mitchum was in Night of the Hunter? Or Darth Vader in the first Star Wars movie? Well Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker is right up there with them. With his clipped words, ice-cold gaze, rigid neck and steel-rimmed glasses, he looks like he's ready to break people in half with just the power of his voice. He drifts through the film like an unstoppable barge, commanding every scene with just the turn of his head. Seldom is there such a powerful screen presence.

Lancaster's performance alone is worth seeing this film, but the writing cracks like a whip. This is some of the best writing I've ever seen in any film, recalling the brilliant writing of All About Eve or Citizen Kane: "Come back Sidney, I want to chastise you some more", "turn around and look: is she still standing there?", "you're a cookie full of arsenic", "I see your brother's words coming out of your mouth like a ventriloquist's dummy", "I would never use an elephant gun to shoot a mosquito". Over and over, the witty dialogue slices through the scenes like a razor. You have to see this film to believe it.

Tony Curtis was never better as a sleazy PR guy as he pimps his secretary, slobbers at J.J.'s heels like an obsequious mutt, and colludes with the crooked cops to frame people. Within this maelstrom of cynicism and anger are two young lovers, driven apart by J.J.'s overbearing presence.

The photography is excellent, you can almost smell the wet NYC streets. Black and white never looked better.

This is an excellent film, and highly recommended. I wish they still made movies like this.

105 of 109 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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