Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Film-Noir  |  27 June 1957 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 8.2/10 from 18,747 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 »
Watch Trailer
0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

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



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.

Director: Billy Wilder
Stars: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur
Drama | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.

Director: Jacques Tourneur
Stars: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas
Laura (1944)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he is investigating.

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb
The Killers (1946)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Hit men kill an unresisting victim, and investigator Reardon uncovers his past involvement with beautiful, deadly Kitty Collins.

Director: Robert Siodmak
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The desperate life of a chronic alcoholic is followed through a four day drinking bout.

Director: Billy Wilder
Stars: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry
Certificate: Passed Crime | Film-Noir | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A major heist goes off as planned, until bad luck and double crosses cause everything to unravel.

Director: John Huston
Stars: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen
Elmer Gantry (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A fast-talking traveling salesman with a charming, loquacious manner convinces a sincere evangelist that he can be an effective preacher for her cause.

Director: Richard Brooks
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, Arthur Kennedy
The Big Heat (1953)
Crime | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

Tough cop Dave Bannion takes on a politically powerful crime syndicate.

Director: Fritz Lang
Stars: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Jocelyn Brando
Adventure | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A director of escapist films goes on the road as a hobo to learn about Life...which gives him a rude awakening.

Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick
Rififi (1955)
Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Four men plan a technically perfect crime, but the human element intervenes...

Director: Jules Dassin
Stars: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel
Drama | Film-Noir | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A potentially violent screenwriter is a murder suspect until his lovely neighbor clears him. But she begins to have doubts...

Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy
White Heat (1949)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and leads his old gang in a chemical plant payroll heist. Shortly after the plan takes place, events take a crazy turn

Director: Raoul Walsh
Stars: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O'Brien


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


This is the story of J.J. - But not the way he wants 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?


After Ernest Borgnine tried to break his contract with Burt Lancaster's production company, Burt Lancaster tried to force him to appear in this film in a supporting role, but Borgnine refused to do so. See more »


Microphone shadow during coffee shop scene with Steve and Susan. 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 Stiller & Meara: Obituaries (2010) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

3 May 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is the kind of film that could coin an expression like "They don't make 'em like that anymore," except that people have been using that line for every piece of crap that was made more than two years ago. Go ahead and say it to yourself, and I'll say that David Mamet's Glengarry, Glen Ross comes close. Both feature snarling, biting dialog. Both have irredeemable characters that will do anything for success. Mamet's characters are mostly down-and-outers who are scrapping at each other to find some sampling of their former successes. In Sweet Smell of Success there are successful characters and losers, both of which need each other to survive. It is a tale of a successful columnist and his need for a low life press agent. It is a bitter, bleak story of power, success and the desire to have more.

Burt Lancaster plays JJ Hunsecker, a powerful, successful columnist who is at the top of his game. He gets what he wants, when he wants it with no questions asked. He can make or break celebrities with a quick blurb in his column. He dines with politicians and gets any girl he wants. Tony Curtis is Sidney Falco, a low rent press agent who needs Lancaster's blurbs for his clients to keep in business. Problem is, Hunsecker has cut Falco out of his columns because Falco hasn't delivered on a deal they made. Though Hunsecker can garner the love and admiration of anyone he chooses, the one woman he cannot win over is his own sister. As he repeatedly says throughout the film, she's all he has. Problem is she is in love with a jazz singer, and they plan to marry. Hunsecker can't bear the thought of losing his sister, so he forces Falco to get rid of the boy by any means necessary.

The film is relentless. From beginning to end it never stops its pounding. There is never a breath of kindness. The two characters with some redeeming characteristics Hunsecker's sister, Susan (Susan Harrison) and her boyfriend, Steve Dallas (Martin Milner), are so overshadowed by the continual foul play by Hunsecker and Falco that they come away with a foul stench.

Tony Curtis pulls a performance that reminded me of his turn as the Boston Strangler. It is not difficult to see his Falco turning to murder if it helped him succeed. Though as the strangler, he seems to have found some remorse for his actions, where Falco is irredeemable to the very end.

There is a seen in the middle of the picture where Falco pulls a trick to convince a mid level performer to make Falco his press agent. At this point Falco needs all the clients he can get. Later the performer comes to Falco, ready to sign him as his agent. Falco, now feeling some signs of success brushes the performer off without a second thought. It is a telling scene of just how heartless and uncaring Falco has become.

Where has Burt Lancaster been all my life? Sadly enough, the only film I can remember watching him in is the 1986 toss-off comedy Tough Guys. His performance here is nothing short of astonishing. He is the king of his castle, never stepping off his high throne, treating everyone as servants. Even his shows of affection for Susan are grotesque and menacing.

This is a story that his hard to watch. It is brutal, and menacing with nary a redeeming aspect. But it is a film that must be watched. The craftsmanship of the filmmakers and the performances of the actors elevate it above so many others. It is nearly a morality tale of the horrors that befall humanities greed.

32 of 38 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Most Quotable movie ever VetteMAE
Best 'on location' movies of the era jjthe2
Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco—one of the best portrayals in movie history SArber
Julie Andrews uncredited cameo? jonnyplex
John and Joan Cusack + Jeremy Piven elizalisa
the Coat as metaphor... lorene-lavora
Discuss Sweet Smell of Success (1957) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: