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Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Approved | | Drama, Film-Noir | 4 July 1957 (USA)
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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.

Writers:

Clifford Odets (screenplay), Ernest Lehman (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
1,430 ( 7,648)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Burt Lancaster ... J.J. Hunsecker
Tony Curtis ... Sidney Falco
Susan Harrison ... Susan Hunsecker
Martin Milner ... Steve Dallas (as Marty Milner)
Jeff Donnell ... Sally
Sam Levene ... Frank D' Angelo
Joe Frisco ... Herbie Temple
Barbara Nichols ... Rita
Emile Meyer ... Lt. Harry Kello
Edith Atwater ... Mary
The Chico Hamilton Quintet ... The Chico Hamilton Quintet
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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 »

Genres:

Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 July 1957 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sweet Smell of Success See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,600,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$7,336
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Fred Karlin and Chico Hamilton wrote the original score but United Artists rejected it as "too esoteric", and drafted in Elmer Bernstein to re-score. See more »

Goofs

In opening sequence, when Sidney buys a newspaper, then lays it out on luncheonette counter to read it, configuration of stories and graphics on page don't match newspaper seen in closeup. See more »

Quotes

Steve: The next time you want information, don't scratch for it like a dog, ask for it like a man!
See more »

Crazy Credits

introducing Susan Harrison See more »

Connections

Featured in Mackendrick: The Man Who Walked Away (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"You want information, ask for it like a man, instead of scratching for it like a dog."
20 October 2005 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

The fact that in 1957 this film was made at all is proof that Walter Winchell's decline was already setting in. Burt Lancaster's J.J. Hunsecker based on Winchell and very frightening accurately portrays the columnist and the power he wielded.

For those who are interested in how Winchell got to where he was J.J. Hunsecker I would recommend Neal Gabler's biography of him which came out a few years ago. Sweet Smell of Success is the story of a day in the life of this monster who everyone on the planet it seems is terrified of offending. Like Winchell at the Stork Club, Hunsecker holds court like some monarch at a nightclub where people are obsequiously asking for some recognition in his column.

One of these is Sidney Falco, press agent and bootlicking dog extraordinaire. Hunsecker is mad at him because he sent him on an errand to break up a romance his younger sister is having with a jazz musician he doesn't approve of. The film is essentially Falco's attempts to carry out his master's wishes.

Burt Lancaster had already received critical acclaim as an actor, but this was a breakthrough role for Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco. Up to then Curtis was the handsome romantic lead in many lightweight films for his home studio of Universal. Sidney Falco was a lot of things, but heroic wasn't one of them. Next year Tony Curtis would get an Oscar nomination for The Defiant Ones. How Lancaster and Curtis were ignored by the Academy for nominations is beyond me.

The young lovers are Susan Harrison and Martin Milner. This was probably Marty Milner's finest screen role. As Lancaster was also the producer he personally cast Milner in the part having worked with him on Gunfight at the OK Corral. Susan Harrison strangely enough never had much of a career after a promising debut. She ultimately wreaks a terrible vengeance on one of our protagonists.

One of the ironic lines in the film is Lancaster saying that he'd fold up if he had to exist on a press agent's tidbits. But ironically that's how Winchell/Hunsecker did exist. Winchell had no real skill as a reporter as Gabler's biography pointed out. When the tidbits stopped, he dried up and blew away.

Sweet Smell of Success was a commercial flop, movie audiences did not take to the offbeat casting of the leads nor to the gritty realistic story. Today the film is a deserved classic.


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