Sweet Smell of Success

This film, from 1957, is pure poetry. When I say that it stars Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, you should immediately salvate. But, in case that didn’t hook you, I shall expand my explanation.

Directed by Alexander Mackendrick, and written by Clifford Odets, each line in this movie is literally poetry. Lancster plays a power hungry, literarily brutish gossip columist. Curtis plays a press agent, not doing too well, desperate to become the next JJ (Lancaster). He feeds bits of gossip to Lancaster who treats him like the scum of the earth, and in reality, they both are.

While both men are articulate, their words simply dazzling, their characters are plain dirt. When the film came out, it was so unpopular because the men were so cynical, so out for themselves that they were willing to hurt anyone. No one wanted to watch a film about these men who were, in reality, the ugliest people you could ever meet. Curtis is brilliant–his character is out for himself, and will literally do anything to get ahead, including sell out his down and out female friend to a grimy politician. These little acts are cruel and sadistic, though done in utter desperation and necessity. Their limits know no bounds.

Although the background story, which includes JJ’s little sister falling in love with a musician JJ disapproves of, is rather irrelevant and badly acted, the major story of grimy men living their lives in New York in the time is beautiful. A tragic story, scored by a background of apt restless jazz in the background–lively, sparatic, almost as desperate and unsure as the characters it’s backing up.

With a brilliant script, great acting (and actors) and a fantastic score, this movie is definitely two thumbs up. Although much of Curtis’ news is “four days old” and JJ “won’t buy it” this movie is still fresh and new, despite the year tagged next to it’s name. A definite classic.

Rating: 4,5/5 stars

Overall: the script is absolutely gorgeous, but the background story is irrelevant, and rather silly. Curtis and Lancaster are brilliant, despite their less than so contemporaries.


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