Friday, December 31, 2010
Sweet Smell of Success
This film features some of the slimiest, darkest, meanest and most manipulative characters ever captured on celluloid. I felt, just a little bit, dirty after watching this film recently. It is impossible to feel any other way!
Tony Curtis, in the finest performance of his career, plays Sydney Falco. Falco is a press agent attempting to gain fame and fortune for his clients. But, more importantly, is fame and fortune for himself. He attempts to curry the favor of big-time newspaper columnist/radio star J.J. Hunsecker. Burt Lancaster portrays Hunsecker with amazing evil and contempt in every word and movement. This film should be seen just to watch these two actors give the performance of their lives. Curtis plays the toady, kiss-ass with a level of sleaze that can almost be tasted as it drips off the screen. And Lancaster's manipulation knows no bounds. Acting magnificence!
The script is top-notch. Written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, it is wonderful in its evil. They do a terrific job of giving the viewer the feel of desperation for small-guy Curtis and corrupt power of Lancaster. Director Alexander Mackendrick, coming off the wonderful Alec Guinness film 'The Ladykillers', gives us the opportunity to share in the story without pause. He just keeps the film moving towards a fantastic finish. Also to be commended is cinematographer James Wong Howe. He moves the camera through the nightclubs and street life of New York City with ease and grace. Howe had a career that stretched for over 50 years and is remembered for wonderful photography in his films.
One last technical note. Sweet Smell of Success has terrific music and score. From the jazz in the clubs to the score by Elmer Berstein the music alone is well worth the viewing. This film is dark, manipulative and evil. Oh yeah, and terrific as well.
Filmed in 1957, directed by Alexander MacKendrick, written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, starring Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Martin Milner, Susan Harrison and Barbara Nichols. Master film transfer company Criterion has a new DVD set coming out in February for this film. "Light Me, Sydney"