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''Sweet Smell of Success'' is a 1957 American
film noir Film noir (; ) is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood Hollywood is a neighborhood A neighbourhood (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English language Englis ...
drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio drama, radio or television.Elam (1980, 98). Considered as a ...
film directed by
Alexander Mackendrick Alexander Mackendrick (September 8, 1912 – December 22, 1993) was an American-Scottish director and professor. He was born in Boston Boston (, ), officially the City of Boston, is the capital city, capital and List of municipalities in M ...
, starring
Burt Lancaster Burton Stephen Lancaster (November 2, 1913 – October 20, 1994) was an American actor and producer. Initially known for playing tough guys with a tender heart, he went on to achieve success with more complex and challenging roles over a 45-year ...

Burt Lancaster
,
Tony Curtis Tony Curtis (born Bernard Schwartz; June 3, 1925September 29, 2010) was an American actor whose career spanned six decades, achieving the height of his popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. He acted in more than 100 films in roles covering a ...

Tony Curtis
,
Susan Harrison Susan Stewart Harrison (August 26, 1938 – March 5, 2019) was an American actress. She is most famous for her appearance in the 1957 film noir classic ''Sweet Smell of Success'' as the sister for whom Burt Lancaster has an unhealthy affection, and ...

Susan Harrison
, and
Martin Milner Martin Sam Milner (December 28, 1931 – September 6, 2015) was an American film, stage, radio, and television actor. Milner is best known for his performances on two television series: '' Route 66'', which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1964, ...
, and written by
Clifford Odets Clifford Odets (July 18, 1906 – August 14, 1963) was an American playwright, director, screenwriter, and actor. In the mid-1930s, he was widely seen as the potential successor to Nobel Prize The Nobel Prizes ( ; sv, Nobelpriset ; no, No ...
,
Ernest Lehman Ernest Paul Lehman (December 8, 1915 – July 2, 2005) was an American screenwriter. He was nominated six times for Academy Awards for his screenplays during his career, but did not win. At the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001, he received an Acad ...
, and Mackendrick from the novelette by Lehman. The shadowy noir
cinematography Cinematography (from ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Gre ...

cinematography
filmed on location in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

New York City
was shot by
James Wong Howe Wong Tung Jim, A.S.C. (; August 28, 1899 – July 12, 1976), known professionally as James Wong Howe (Houghto), was a Chinese-born American cinematographer who worked on over 130 films. During the 1930s and 1940s, he was one of the most soug ...
. The picture was produced by James Hill of
Hecht-Hill-Lancaster ProductionsHecht-Hill-Lancaster was a production company formed by the actor Burt Lancaster in association with his agent, Harold Hecht, and James Hill (producer), James Hill. In 1948 Lancaster and Hecht formed Norma Productions, which later became Hecht-Lancas ...
and released by
United Artists United Artists Corporation (UA), currently doing business as United Artists Digital Studios, is an American digital production company. Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. (16 April ...
. The supporting cast features
Sam Levene Sam Levene (born Scholem Lewin; August 28, 1905 – December 28, 1980) was an Russian-born American Broadway Broadway may refer to: Theatre * Broadway Theatre (disambiguation) * Broadway theatre, theatrical productions in professional thea ...

Sam Levene
,
Barbara Nichols Barbara Marie Nickerauer (December 10, 1928 – October 5, 1976), better known as Barbara Nichols, was an American actress who often played brassy or comic roles in films in the 1950s and 1960s. Early life and career Nichols was born Barb ...
,
Joe Frisco Joe Frisco (born Louis Wilson Joseph; November 4, 1889 – February 12, 1958) was an American vaudeville Vaudeville (; ) is a of born in France at the end of the 19th century. A vaudeville was originally a comedy without psychological ...
,
Edith Atwater Edith Atwater (April 22, 1911 – March 14, 1986) was an American stage, film, and television actress. Career Born in Chicago, Atwater made her Broadway debut in 1933. In 1939, she starred in '' The Man Who Came to Dinner''. Her film career i ...
, David White and
Emile Meyer Emile Meyer (August 18, 1910 – March 19, 1987) was an American actor An actor is a person who portrays a character in a performance (also actress; #The term actress, see below). The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional m ...
. The musical score was arranged and conducted by
Elmer Bernstein Elmer Bernstein (April 4, 1922August 18, 2004) was an American composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken i ...
and the film also features jazz performances by the
Chico Hamilton Quintet ''Chico Hamilton Quintet'' is a live album by drummer and bandleader Chico Hamilton, released on the Pacific Jazz Records, Pacific Jazz label.
. Mary Grant designed the costumes. The film tells the story of powerful and sleazy newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker (portrayed by Lancaster and based on
Walter Winchell Walter Winchell (April 7, 1897 – February 20, 1972) was a syndicated American newspaper gossip columnist A gossip columnist is someone who writes a gossip column in a newspaper or magazine, especially a gossip magazine. Gossip columns are ...

Walter Winchell
) who uses his connections to ruin his sister's relationship with a man he deems unworthy of her. Despite a poorly received preview screening, ''Sweet Smell of Success'' has greatly improved in stature over the years. It is now highly acclaimed by film critics, particularly for its cinematography and screenplay. In 1993, the film was selected for preservation in the United States
National Film Registry The National Film Registry (or NFR for short) is the United States National Film Preservation Board The United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contigu ...
by the
Library of Congress The Library of Congress (LC) is the research library A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are easily accessible for use and not just for display purposes. It is responsible for housing updated information in order ...

Library of Congress
as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." '' Sweet Smell of Success: The Musical'' was created by
Marvin Hamlisch Marvin Frederick Hamlisch (June 2, 1944 – August 6, 2012) was an American composer and conductor. Hamlisch was one of only sixteen people to win Emmy, Grammy, Academy Awards, Oscar and Tony Awards, Tony awards. This collection of all four ...
,
Craig Carnelia Craig Carnelia (born 1949) is an American musical theater composer and singer, known for his collaboration on the musicals ''Working (musical), Working'' and ''Sweet Smell of Success (musical), Sweet Smell of Success''. Biography Carnelia grew up i ...
, and
John Guare John Guare (rhymes with "air"; born February 5, 1938) is an American playwright A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes plays. Etymology The word "play" is from Middle English pleye, from Old English plæġ, pleġa, plæġa ("play, e ...
in 2002.


Plot

Morally bankrupt
Manhattan Manhattan (), known regionally as ''The City'', is the most densely populated and geographically smallest of the five boroughs 5 is a number, numeral, and glyph. 5, five or number 5 may also refer to: * AD 5, the fifth year of the AD era ...

Manhattan
press agent Sidney Falco is a frustrated fringe player who, of late, has been unable to gain positive publicity for his clients in media kingpin J.J. Hunsecker's influential, nationally syndicated newspaper column. Hunsecker is overly protective of his younger sister Susan, and seeks to derail her romance with up-and-coming
jazz guitarist Jazz guitarists are guitarists who play jazz Jazz is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and ti ...
Steve Dallas. In return for a failed promise, the bullying Hunsecker offers Falco the opportunity to make good by breaking the couple up. Falco is losing money and clients, and knows this crucial back-scratch could save his career. Sidney hopes to plant a rumor in a rival column that Dallas is a
marijuana Cannabis, also known as marijuana among other names Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also refer to: Books * The Other (Tryon novel), ''The Other'' (Tryon novel), ...
-smoking
Communist Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Repu ...

Communist
, enough to get him fired from the jazz club where his combo plays. Hunsecker will then gain points with Susan by defending Dallas and getting his job back, with Falco counting on an overly prideful Dallas rejecting a tainted favor. To get his dirt planted, Falco plans to blackmail a prominent columnist by threatening to expose his marital infidelity. Instead, the columnist chooses exposure over his journalistic integrity - which even his wife praises as his "first decent act in years". Falco then bribes a second columnist with a sexual favor to be provided by a cigarette girl he has a friendly relationship with, misleading her into waiting for him in his bedroom only to arrive with the columnist - a new low, even for Falco. He flips her outrage by claiming he is doing it to help her career. The lies get printed and Dallas' jazz group is fired from the club. As planned, in Dallas and Susan's presence Hunsecker theatrically gets Dallas rehired with a phone call, but Dallas still insults and denounces J.J. for his malignant influence on society. Forced to choose between them, Susan breaks up with Dallas in order to protect him from her vengeful brother. In spite of this, Hunsecker is so incensed by Dallas's insults - which he twists around to characterize as attacks on his loyal, patriotic audience - that he escalates things. Holding Falco's feet to the fire, he orders the shill to plant marijuana on Dallas then have him arrested and roughed up by corrupt police lieutenant Harry Kello, a move so dirty even Falco recoils from it. To swing him round, Hunsecker dangles three months of writing his column while J.J. takes Susan to Europe to forget about Steve. It proves too much to resist. At the jazz club, Falco slips marijuana cigarettes into the pocket of Dallas's coat. Dallas is accosted by Kello outside the club and beaten so badly he ends up in the hospital. Falco then celebrates at a bar where, surrounded by his industry pals, he toasts to his "new perfume, the sweet smell of success". The festivities are interrupted when Falco is summoned to Hunsecker's penthouse apartment, where he finds Susan in her nightgown about to jump off the balcony. Falco stops her, then lectures her and calls her childish. Hunsecker arrives to find Falco and Susan in an outwardly compromising position in her bedroom, as Falco begins to suspect that Susan has set him up. Unable to talk himself out of what seems like a trap, Falco is brutally slapped around by Hunsecker. Livid, Falco reveals to Susan that her brother conspired to frame Dallas. Hunsecker then calls Kello and deems Dallas innocent and Falco guilty of planting evidence. Falco declares that Kello's beating will not stop him from making the whole story public and leaves. As he exits the building, he is caught in
Times Square Times Square is a major commercial intersection, tourist destination, entertainment center, and in the section of , at the junction of and . Brightly lit by numerous billboards and advertisements, it stretches from West to West Streets, an ...

Times Square
by the brutal cop. Susan packs a bag to leave. Stopped by J.J., she explains that she indeed had attempted suicide, having considered death preferable to living with him, and that she is leaving to be with Dallas. J.J. then watches from the balcony as she walks past Falco's beaten form into the coming dawn.


Cast


Production

Faced with potential unemployment from the sale of
Ealing Studios Ealing Studios is a television and film production company and facilities provider at Ealing Ealing () is a district in West London West London is the western part of London, England. The area lies north of the River Thames and extends ...
to the
BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster, headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London. It is the world's oldest national broadcaster, and the largest broadcasting, broadcaster in the world by ...

BBC
in 1954, director
Alexander Mackendrick Alexander Mackendrick (September 8, 1912 – December 22, 1993) was an American-Scottish director and professor. He was born in Boston Boston (, ), officially the City of Boston, is the capital city, capital and List of municipalities in M ...
began entertaining offers from Hollywood. He rejected potential contracts from
Cary Grant Cary Grant (born Archibald Alec Leach; January 18, 1904November 29, 1986) was an English-American actor. Known for his transatlantic accent The Mid-Atlantic accent, or Transatlantic accent, is a cultivated Accent (sociolinguistics), accent ...

Cary Grant
and
David Selznick David O. Selznick (May 10, 1902June 22, 1965) was an American film producer A film producer is a person who oversees film production. Either employed by a production company or working Independent film, independently, producers plan and coordi ...
and signed with independent production company Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, enticed by their offer to adapt
George Bernard Shaw George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950), known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemic Polemic () is contentious rhetoric Rhetoric () is the art Art is a diverse range ...

George Bernard Shaw
’s play ''
The Devil's Disciple ''The Devil's Disciple'' is an 1897 play written by Irish dramatist George Bernard Shaw George Bernard Shaw (; 26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950), known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist ...
''. After the project collapsed during pre-production, Mackendrick asked to be released from his commitment.
Harold Hecht Harold Adolphe Hecht (June 1, 1907 – May 26, 1985) was an American film producer, dance director and talent agent. He was also, though less noted for, a literary agent, a theatrical producer A theatrical producer is a person who oversees all a ...
refused and asked him to start work on another project – adapting Ernest Lehman’s novellette ''Sweet Smell of Success'' into a film. Lehman’s story had originally appeared in the April, 1950 issue of ''
Cosmopolitan Cosmopolitan may refer to: Food and drink * Cosmopolitan (cocktail), also known as a "Cosmo" History * Rootless cosmopolitan, a Soviet derogatory epithet during Joseph Stalin's anti-Semitic campaign of 1949–1953 Hotels and resorts * Cosmopo ...
'', renamed "Tell Me About It Tomorrow!" because the editor of the magazine did not want the word "smell" in the publication. It was based on his own experiences working as an assistant to Irving Hoffman, a New York press agent and columnist for ''
The Hollywood Reporter ''The Hollywood Reporter'' (''THR'') is an American digital and print magazine, and website, which focuses on the Hollywood Hollywood is a neighborhood A neighbourhood (British English British English (BrE) is the standard d ...
''. Hoffman subsequently did not speak to Lehman for a year and a half. Hoffman then wrote a column for ''The Hollywood Reporter'' speculating that Lehman would make a good screenwriter, and within a week Paramount called Lehman, inviting him to Los Angeles for talks. Lehman forged a screenwriting career in Hollywood, writing ''
Executive Suite ''Executive Suite'' is a 1954 American Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer drama film directed by Robert Wise and written by Ernest Lehman, based on the novel of the same name by Cameron Hawley. The film stars William Holden, June Allyson, Barbara Stanwyck, Fre ...
'', '' Sabrina,'' ''
North by Northwest ''North by Northwest'' is a 1959 American spy Espionage or spying is the act of obtaining secret or confidential information or divulging of the same without the permission of the holder of the information. A person who commits espiona ...
,'' ''
The Sound of Music ''The Sound of Music'' is a musical with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. It is based on the 1949 memoir of Maria von Trapp, ''The Story of the Trapp Family Singers''. ...
'', ''
West Side Story ''West Side Story'' is a musical Musical is the adjective of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human socie ...
'', ''
The King and I ''The King and I'' is the fifth musical Musical is the adjective of music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human societies. General include commo ...
'', and ''
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ''Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'' is a play by Edward Albee first staged in October 1962. It examines the complexities of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George. Late one evening, after a university faculty party, they receive ...
''.


Pre-production

By the time Hecht-Hill-Lancaster acquired ''Success'', Lehman was in position to not only adapt his own novelette but also produce and direct the film. After scouting locations, Lehman was told by Hecht that distributor
United Artists United Artists Corporation (UA), currently doing business as United Artists Digital Studios, is an American digital production company. Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. (16 April ...
was having second thoughts about going with a first-time director, so Hecht offered the film to Mackendrick. Initially, the director had reservations about trying to film such a dialogue-heavy screenplay, so he and Lehman worked on it for weeks to make it more cinematic. As the script neared completion, Lehman became ill and had to resign from the picture. James Hill took over and offered
Paddy Chayefsky Sidney Aaron "Paddy" Chayefsky (January 29, 1923 – August 1, 1981) was an American playwright, screenwriter and novelist. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, ...
as Lehman's replacement. Mackendrick suggested
Clifford Odets Clifford Odets (July 18, 1906 – August 14, 1963) was an American playwright, director, screenwriter, and actor. In the mid-1930s, he was widely seen as the potential successor to Nobel Prize The Nobel Prizes ( ; sv, Nobelpriset ; no, No ...
, the playwright whose reputation as a left-wing hero had been tarnished after he named names before the
House Un-American Activities Committee The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA), popularly dubbed the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and from 1969 onwards known as the House Committee on Internal Security, was an investigative United States Congressional c ...
. Mackendrick assumed that Odets would need only two or three weeks to polish the script, but he took four months. The director recalled, "We started shooting with no final script at all, while Clifford reconstructed the thing from stem to stern". The plot was largely intact, but in Mackendrick's biography he is quoted from ''Notes on Sweet Smell of Success'': "What Clifford did, in effect, was dismantle the structure of every single sequence in order to rebuild situations and relationships that were much more complex, had much greater tension and more dramatic energy". This process took time, and the start date for the production could not be delayed. Odets had to accompany the production to
Manhattan Manhattan (), known regionally as ''The City'', is the most densely populated and geographically smallest of the five boroughs 5 is a number, numeral, and glyph. 5, five or number 5 may also refer to: * AD 5, the fifth year of the AD era ...

Manhattan
and continued rewriting while they shot there. Returning to the city that had shunned him for going to Hollywood made Odets very neurotic and obsessed with all kinds of rituals as he worked at a furious pace, with pages often going straight from his typewriter to being shot the same day. Mackendrick said, "So we cut the script there on the floor, with the actors, just cutting down lines, making them more spare – what Clifford would have done himself, really, had there been time". Tony Curtis had to fight for the role of Sidney Falco because
Universal Universal is the adjective for universe. Universal may also refer to: Companies * NBCUniversal, a media and entertainment company ** Universal Animation Studios, an American Animation studio, and a subsidiary of NBCUniversal ** Universal TV, a te ...

Universal
, the studio to which he was contracted, was worried that it would ruin his career. Tired of doing pretty-boy roles and wanting to prove that he could act, Curtis got his way.
Orson Welles George Orson Welles (May 6, 1915 – October 10, 1985) was an American director, actor, screenwriter, and producer who is remembered for his innovative work in radio, theatre and film. He is considered to be among the greatest and most in ...

Orson Welles
was originally considered for the role of J. J. Hunsecker. Mackendrick wanted to cast
Hume Cronyn Hume Blake Cronyn Jr., OC (July 18, 1911 – June 15, 2003) was a Canadian stage and screen Screen or Screens may refer to: Arts * Screen printing (also called ''silkscreening''), a method of printing * Big screen, a nickname associated with ...
because he felt that Cronyn closely resembled
Walter Winchell Walter Winchell (April 7, 1897 – February 20, 1972) was a syndicated American newspaper gossip columnist A gossip columnist is someone who writes a gossip column in a newspaper or magazine, especially a gossip magazine. Gossip columns are ...

Walter Winchell
, the basis for the Hunsecker character in the novelette. Lehman makes the distinction in an interview that Winchell was the inspiration for the version of the character in the novelette, and that this differs from the character in the film version. United Artists wanted Burt Lancaster in the role because of his box office appeal and his successful pairing with Curtis on ''
Trapeze A trapeze is a short horizontal bar hung by ropes or metal straps from a ceiling support. It is an aerial apparatus commonly found in circus A circus is a company of performers who put on diverse entertainment shows that may include clow ...
''.
Robert Vaughn Robert Francis Vaughn (November 22, 1932 – November 11, 2016) was an American actor noted for his stage, film and television work. His television roles include suave spy Napoleon Solo in the 1960s series ''The Man from U.N.C.L.E.''; wealt ...

Robert Vaughn
was signed to a contract with Lancaster's film company and was to have played the Steve Dallas role but was drafted into the Army before he could begin the film.
Ernest Borgnine Ernest Borgnine (; born Ermes Effron Borgnino; January 24, 1917 – July 8, 2012) was an American actor whose career spanned over six decades. He was noted for his gruff but relaxed voice and gap-toothed Cheshire Cat grin. A popular perfo ...

Ernest Borgnine
, contracted to Hecht-Hill-Lancaster since '' Marty'' (1955) was offered a role in the film but turned it down as his role was only seven pages long in the script. His refusal led him to be put on suspension from Hecht-Hill-Lancaster. Hecht-Hill-Lancaster allowed Mackendrick to familiarize himself with
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

New York City
before shooting the movie. In ''Notes on Sweet Smell of Success'', Mackendrick said, "One of the characteristic aspects of New York, particularly of the area between 42nd Street and 57th Street, is the neurotic energy of the crowded sidewalks. This was, I argued, essential to the story of characters driven by the uglier aspects of ambition and greed". He took multiple photographs of the city from several fixed points and taped the pictures into a series of panoramas that he stuck on a wall and studied once he got back to Hollywood. Cellist Fred Katz and drummer
Chico Hamilton Foreststorn "Chico" Hamilton, (September 20, 1921 – November 25, 2013) was an American jazz drummer and bandleader A bandleader is the leader of a music group such as a rock or pop band or jazz quartet. The term is most commonly used wit ...

Chico Hamilton
, who briefly appear in the film as themselves, wrote a score for the movie, which was ultimately rejected in favor of one by
Elmer Bernstein Elmer Bernstein (April 4, 1922August 18, 2004) was an American composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken i ...
.


Principal photography

Mackendrick shot the film in late 1956, and was scared the entire time because Hecht-Hill-Lancaster had a reputation for firing their directors for any or even no reason at all. The filmmaker was used to extensive rehearsals before a scene was shot and often found himself shooting a script page one or two hours after Odets had written it. Lancaster's presence proved to be intimidating for numerous individuals involved with the production; at one point, Lehman had been approached to direct the film, but declined due to his fear of Lancaster, although Hecht maintained that Lehman had never been offered the chance to direct. Mackendrick and composer Elmer Bernstein both found Lancaster intimidating, with Bernstein later recalling, "Burt was really scary. He was a dangerous guy. He had a short fuse". Mackendrick decided to use Lancaster's volatility to work for the character of JJ, asking that Lancaster wear his own
browline glasses Malcolm X wearing browline glasses, of which he owned several pairs, each in different colours Browline glasses are a style of Glasses#Frames, eyeglass frames where the "bold" upper part holding the lenses resembles eyebrows framing the eyes. T ...
, which Mackendrick felt gave him the presence of "a scholarly brute". Mackendrick smeared a thin layer of vaseline on the lenses, preventing Lancaster from focusing his eyes and giving him a perpetually blank gaze. Assisted by cinematographer
James Wong Howe Wong Tung Jim, A.S.C. (; August 28, 1899 – July 12, 1976), known professionally as James Wong Howe (Houghto), was a Chinese-born American cinematographer who worked on over 130 films. During the 1930s and 1940s, he was one of the most soug ...
, Mackendrick intentionally filmed scenes with JJ from a low angle using a
wide-angle lens In photography and cinematography, a wide-angle lens refers to a Photographic lens, lens whose focal length is substantially smaller than the focal length of a normal lens for a given film plane. This type of lens allows more of the Scene (perc ...
and with overhead lighting directly above Lancaster, so that the spectacle frames cast shadows on his face. Shooting on location in New York City also added to Mackendrick's anxieties. Exteriors were shot in the busiest, noisiest areas with crowds of young Tony Curtis fans occasionally breaking through police barriers. Mackendrick remembered, "We started shooting in
Times Square Times Square is a major commercial intersection, tourist destination, entertainment center, and in the section of , at the junction of and . Brightly lit by numerous billboards and advertisements, it stretches from West to West Streets, an ...

Times Square
at rush hour, and we had high-powered actors and a camera crane and police help and all the rest of it, but we didn’t have any script. We knew where we were going vaguely, but that’s all".


Musical score and soundtrack


Reaction

A
preview screening A test screening is a preview screening of a Film, movie or television show before its general release to gauge audience reaction. Preview audiences are selected from a cross-section of the population and are usually asked to complete a questionnair ...
of ''Sweet Smell of Success'' was poorly received, as Tony Curtis fans were expecting him to play one of his typical nice guy roles and instead were presented with the scheming Sidney Falco. Mackendrick remembered seeing audience members "curling up, crossing their arms and legs, recoiling from the screen in disgust". Burt Lancaster's fans were not thrilled with their idol either, "finding the film too static and talky". The film was a box office failure, and Hecht blamed his producing partner Hill. "The night of the preview, Harold said to me, 'You know you've wrecked our company? We're going to lose over a million dollars on this picture,'" Hill recalled. According to Lehman, Lancaster blamed him, claiming that: "Burt threatened me at a party after the preview. He said, 'You didn't have to leave – you could have made this a much better picture. I ought to beat you up.' I said, 'Go ahead – I could use the money.'" Although he and Hecht would fire Mackendrick from ''
The Devil's Disciple ''The Devil's Disciple'' is an 1897 play written by Irish dramatist George Bernard Shaw George Bernard Shaw (; 26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950), known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist ...
'' for the same painstaking (and costly) approach,
LancasterLancaster may refer to: Lands and titles *The County Palatine of Lancaster, a synonym for Lancashire *Duchy of Lancaster, one of only two British royal duchies *Duke of Lancaster *Earl of Lancaster *House of Lancaster, a British royal dynasty ...

Lancaster
was quoted as saying that he felt Mackendrick had done a fantastic job for ''Sweet Smell of Success'' and that it wasn't his fault the film lost money. He also believed that should have gotten an Oscar for his role as Falco. ''Sweet Smell of Success'' premiered in New York at
Loew's Loews Cineplex Entertainment, also known as Loews Incorporated (originally Loew's), founded on June 23, 1904 by Marcus Loew, was the oldest theater chain operating in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Nort ...
State in Times Square on June 27, 1957. Critical reaction was much more favorable. ''
Time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future. It is a component quantity of various me ...
'' magazine said the movie was "raised to considerable dramatic heights by intense acting, taut direction ... superb camera work ... and, above all, by its whiplash dialogue". ''Time'' and the ''
New York Herald The ''New York Herald'' was a large-distribution newspaper based in New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and medi ...
'' included the film on their ten-best lists for films released in 1957. The film's critical reputation increased in subsequent decades.
David Denby David Denby (born 1943) is an American journalist. He served as film critic for ''The New Yorker'' until December 2014. Early life and education Denby grew up in New York City. He received a B. A. from Columbia University in 1965, and a master' ...
in ''
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...
'' magazine later called it "the most acrid, and the best" of all New York movies because it captured, "better than any film I know the atmosphere of Times Square and big-city journalism". ''Sweet Smell of Success'' holds a 98% "fresh" rating based on 45 reviews at
Rotten Tomatoes Rotten Tomatoes is an American review-aggregation website for film and television. The company was launched in August 1998 by three undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley The University of California, Berkeley ...

Rotten Tomatoes
and a 100
metascore Metacritic is a website that aggregates reviews of films, TV shows, music albums, video games and formerly, books. For each product, the scores from each review are averaged (a weighted average). Metacritic was created by Jason Dietz, Marc Doyl ...
rating based on 5 reviews at
Metacritic Metacritic is a website that aggregates reviews A review aggregator is a system that collects reviews of products and services (such as films, books, video games, software, hardware, and cars). This system stores the reviews and uses them for ...

Metacritic
. A. O. Scott wrote in March 2002 for ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
'': "Courtesy of Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets, a high-toned street vernacular that no real New Yorker has ever spoken but that every real New Yorker wishes he could".
Andrew Sarris Andrew Sarris (October 31, 1928 – June 20, 2012) was an American film critic Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visua ...
in the ''
New York Observer New is an adjective referring to something recently made, discovered, or created. New or NEW may refer to: Music * New, singer of K-pop group The Boyz Boyz or The Boyz may refer to: Music Bands *The Boyz (German band), a German boy band of t ...
'', again in 2002, wrote, "the main incentive to see this movie is its witty, pungent and idiomatic dialogue, such as you never hear on the screen anymore in this age of special-effects illiteracy".


Legacy

In 1993, the film was selected for preservation in the United States
National Film Registry The National Film Registry (or NFR for short) is the United States National Film Preservation Board The United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contigu ...
by the
Library of Congress The Library of Congress (LC) is the research library A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are easily accessible for use and not just for display purposes. It is responsible for housing updated information in order ...

Library of Congress
as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2002, '' Sweet Smell of Success: The Musical'' was created by
Marvin Hamlisch Marvin Frederick Hamlisch (June 2, 1944 – August 6, 2012) was an American composer and conductor. Hamlisch was one of only sixteen people to win Emmy, Grammy, Academy Awards, Oscar and Tony Awards, Tony awards. This collection of all four ...
,
Craig Carnelia Craig Carnelia (born 1949) is an American musical theater composer and singer, known for his collaboration on the musicals ''Working (musical), Working'' and ''Sweet Smell of Success (musical), Sweet Smell of Success''. Biography Carnelia grew up i ...
and
John Guare John Guare (rhymes with "air"; born February 5, 1938) is an American playwright A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes plays. Etymology The word "play" is from Middle English pleye, from Old English plæġ, pleġa, plæġa ("play, e ...
. It was not considered a critical or commercial success. In its " 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains" list, the
American Film Institute The American Film Institute (AFI) is an American film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice of applyin ...
(AFI) named J. J. Hunsecker number 35 of the top 50 movie villains of all time in 2003. Filmmaker
Barry Levinson Barry Lee Levinson (born April 6, 1942) is an American filmmaker Filmmaking (or, in any context, film production) is the process by which a film is made. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages including an initial story, ...
paid tribute to ''Sweet Smell of Success'' in his 1982 film ''Diner'', with one character wandering around saying nothing but lines from the film. In an early scene from Levinson's 1988 movie, ''
Rain Man ''Rain Man'' is a 1988 American road movie, road drama film directed by Barry Levinson, from a screenplay written by Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass. It tells the story of abrasive, selfish young wikt:wheeler-dealer, wheeler-dealer Charlie Babbitt ...
'', ''Sweet Smell of Success'' is seen playing on television. The '' Law & Order: Criminal Intent'' episode "Contract" is an homage to the film, with
Mo Rocca Maurice Alberto Rocca (born January 28, 1969) is an American humorist, journalist, and actor. He is a correspondent for ''CBS Sunday Morning'', the host and creator of ''My Grandmother's Ravioli'' on the Cooking Channel, and also the host of ''The ...
playing a gossip columnist who is clearly based on J.J. (in both appearance and attitude) and other characters from the episode quoting the film's lines many times. The titles of episodes two and three from the
first season First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number 1 (number), one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record, specifically the first instance of a particular achievement Arts and media Music * 1$T, American rapper, singer-songwriter, DJ, ...
of ''
Breaking Bad ''Breaking Bad'' is an American neo-Western Western is a genre of fiction set primarily in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th century in the Western United States, which is styled the American frontier, "Old West". Its stories co ...
'' — “Cat’s In The Bag … ” and “. . . And The Bag’s In The River” — are a direct quote from ''Sweet Smell of Success'', which has been described by the show's creator,
Vince Gilligan George Vincent "Vince" Gilligan Jr. (born February 10, 1967) is an American writer, producer, and director. He is known for his television work, specifically as creator, head writer, executive producer, and director of AMC's ''Breaking Bad ...
, as his all-time favorite movie. (*) designates unordered lists.


American Film Institute recognition

'' 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains'' -- #35 Villain (J.J. Hunsecker)


Home media

''Sweet Smell of Success'' was released on DVD (Region 1) and Blu-ray (Region A) as part of
The Criterion Collection The Criterion Collection, Inc. (or simply Criterion) is an American home video, home-video distribution company that focuses on licensing, restoring and distributing "important classic and contemporary films." Criterion serves film and media scho ...
in February 2011. The release includes new audio commentary featuring film scholar
James Naremore James Naremore, born James Otis Naremore, is a film, English and Comparative Literature scholar based at Indiana University. Now retired, he retains the titles of Chancellors' Professor of Communication and Culture, English, and Comparative Liter ...
, ''Mackendrick: The Man Who Walked Away'', a 1986 documentary produced by
Scottish Television Scottish Television (now, legally, known as STV Central Limited) is the ITV ITV or iTV may refer to: ITV *Independent Television (ITV), a British television network, consisting of: **ITV (TV network), a free-to-air national commercial televi ...
featuring interviews with director
Alexander Mackendrick Alexander Mackendrick (September 8, 1912 – December 22, 1993) was an American-Scottish director and professor. He was born in Boston Boston (, ), officially the City of Boston, is the capital city, capital and List of municipalities in M ...
, actor Burt Lancaster, producer James Hill, and others. ''James Wong Howe: Cinematographer'', a 1973 documentary about the film's director of photography, featuring lighting tutorials with Howe, a new video interview with film critic and historian
Neal Gabler Neal Gabler (born 1950) is an American journalist, writer and film critic. Gabler graduated from Lane Tech High School In road transport, a lane is part of a carriageway that is designated to be used by a single line of vehicles to control and ...

Neal Gabler
(Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity) about legendary columnist Walter Winchell, inspiration for the character J. J. Hunsecker, and a new video interview with filmmaker James Mangold about Mackendrick, his instructor and mentor. There is also a booklet featuring an essay by critic
Gary Giddins Gary Giddins is an American jazz critic and author. He wrote for ''The Village Voice ''The Village Voice'' is an American news and culture paper, known for being the country's first alternative newspaper, alternative newsweekly. Founded in ...
, notes about the film and two short stories introducing its characters by screenwriter Ernest Lehman, and an excerpt about Clifford Odets from Mackendrick’s book ''On Film-making'', introduced by the book’s editor, Paul Cronin.


See also

*
List of American films of 1957 A list of American films released in 1957 Events January * January 1 January 1 or 1 January is the first day of the year in the . There are 364 days remaining until the end of the year (365 in s). This day is known as since the ...


References


Bibliography

*


Further reading

*
"CITY LORE; The Bittersweet Smell of the Broadway of Yore"
by Charles Strum, ''The New York Times'', March 10, 2002.

by Richard Corliss, ''Time'', March 21, 2002.
"Alexander Mackendrick on ''Sweet Smell of Success''"
by Alexander Mackendrick, ''Film in Focus'', June 16, 2008.


External links

* ''Sweet Smell of Success'' essa

by Andrea Alsberg at
National Film Registry The National Film Registry (or NFR for short) is the United States National Film Preservation Board The United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contigu ...
* ''Sweet Smell of Success'' essay by Daniel Eagan i

America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry, A&C Black, 2010 , pages 530-532 * * * * * *
''Sweet Smell of Success: The Fantastic Falco''
an essay by
Gary Giddins Gary Giddins is an American jazz critic and author. He wrote for ''The Village Voice ''The Village Voice'' is an American news and culture paper, known for being the country's first alternative newspaper, alternative newsweekly. Founded in ...
at the
Criterion Collection The Criterion Collection, Inc. (or simply Criterion) is an American home-video distribution company that focuses on licensing, restoring and distributing "important classic and contemporary films." Criterion serves film and media scholars, cine ...

Essay on the film
by Alexander Mackendrick
Movies like Sweet Smell of Success
at itcher Magazine {{DEFAULTSORT:Sweet Smell of Success 1957 drama films 1957 films American black-and-white films American drama films
American films {{CatAutoTOC Cinema of the United States, Films by country Works by American people, * North American films by country ...
American satirical films Curtleigh Productions films
English-language films Films with dialogue in the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading language ...
Film noir Films about journalists Films based on short fiction Films directed by Alexander Mackendrick Films produced by Burt Lancaster Films produced by James Hill Films produced by Harold Hecht Films scored by Elmer Bernstein Films set in New York City Films shot in New York City Films with screenplays by Ernest Lehman Norma Productions films United Artists films United States National Film Registry films