Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Film-Noir  |  27 June 1957 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 18,743 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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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?


Named No. 100 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time in 2013. See more »


In first scene in Sidney's office, secretary picks up a stack of magazines and newspapers, that change position and height of stack from shot to shot. See more »


Sidney Falco: The cat's in the bag and the bag's in the river.
See more »


Referenced in Breaking Bad: Cat's in the Bag... (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

3 Good Reasons To Watch This Film
24 June 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There are three reasons that movie fans should check this film out, if you haven't seen it yet:

1 - Outstanding dialog. I can't recall a film in which I heard so many clever film-noir lines as this one. Almost everyone in the movie has a unique way of expressing their feelings. It makes the movie one that you want to go back and HEAR again. Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman wrote the screenplay and deserve special recognition as well as the people below.

2 - Fabulous acting, led by the two male leads: Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster. Curtis is the star of the film with many more lines than anyone else, and many consider this to be his greatest acting achievement. I have no quarrel with that. It's one of the finest acting jobs I've ever witnessed by anyone. It's that good.

Lancaster is memorable and plays to his strengths as a tough guy, not only with his physical presence but his tactless and cutting verbal assaults. He has the best and most brutal lines in the film.

The minor characters in here, from the cop to the comedian to the cigarette girl to the young romantic couple are all top-notch.

3 - The cinematography. A big name in the film business, James Wong Howe, more than lives up to his reputation. This is beautifully photographed and looks absolutely stunning on DVD. I have watched hundreds and hundreds of black-and-white films and this ranks with the best of them. He captured nighttime New York City as well as anybody ever has done.

"Well," you might ask, "if this movie is so great, why haven't I heard more about it?"

Maybe because it never did well at the box office. It wasn't promoted a lot, from what I heard, and the storyline is not a pleasant one. Basically, this is about two immoral people who smear a nice guy so that it will ruin the romance between he and Lancaster's sister.

Lancaster plays an absolutely ruthless newspaper columnist who makes and breaks careers and Curtis plays his slimy press-agent who will do anything to please his powerful boss, including doing the worst of his dirty work.

Furrther details of the film can be read by many of the other fine reviewers here on this website, so no need to go into that.

I am not one who generally likes films that feature mostly nasty people but this was done so well that it fascinates me every time. A final tip of the hat to director Alexander Mackendrick. Why he wasn't given more films to direct is a mystery to me. Highly-recommended.

115 of 123 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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