Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 319: Sweet Smell of Success (1957) - Rank 4.5/5


Film noir is a genre filled with predictable conventions, from convoluted plots to anti-hero protagonists. Snappy, slang-ridden dialog is another staple and when it comes to "Sweet Smell of Success," the repartee can't be outdone. Not unlike "A Clockwork Orange," the script is interlaced with its own breed of the English language. Expressions like, "I often wish I were dead and wore a hearing aid. With a simple flick of a switch, I could shut out the greedy murmur of little men." spew forth from the mouth of gossip columnist extraordinaire J.J. Hunsecker (played with calculating menace by Burt Lancaster). Many of his remarks are rejoinders to comments made by his fawning toadie, Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis - a perfect yang to Lancaster's yin), a press agent who suckles at J.J.'s teat in the hopes that the writer might throw one of his clients a bone.

Starved and desperate for a plug for one of his clients, Falco agrees to help J.J. destroy the romance between J.J.'s kid sister, Susan and a reefer-smoking band man named Dallas (Martin Milner). Trouble is, everything from the law to Sidney's conscience get in the way of his carrying out the dirty deed and soon, it looks like he might end up the patsy for a scandal rather than placating the man whose words level cities. Traveling to a rhythm all its own, "Sweet Smell of Success" blows along like an out-of-control El Train, but I'll be damned if it doesn't capture the seedy underbelly of show business and popularity better than so many pretenders.

Watch the Trailer

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