SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957) B/W widescreen 97m dir: Alexander Mackendrick

w/Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner, Sam Levene, Barbara Nichols, Jeff Donnell, Joseph Leon, Edith Atwater, Emile Meyer

New York after dark provides the backdrop for this sour, stinging portrait of a vengeful newspaper columnist (Lancaster) and a venal press agent (Curtis) who briefly forego their mutual antipathy in order to destroy a young man's career. The characters' greed-driven negotiations are carried out in smoky nightclubs, jazz joints, and rain-soaked streets. Lancaster plays the vicious power broker with chilling menace, and Curtis is superb. Really.

From The Movie Guide: "Emerging from a posh nightclub into the rain-slicked streets of midtown Manhattan, where a couple of hoodlums can be seen rolling a drunk, ruthless showbiz journalist J.J. Hunsecker experiences a predawn epiphany. 'I love this dirty town,' he exclaims.

"The moment is typical of SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, Alexander Mackendrick's perverse, masterly romance of urban menace and moral decay. Best known as the director of lovably quirky Ealing comedies (e.g., THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT), Mackendrick turns to film noir with a vengeance, evincing a very British fascination with (and simultaneous distaste for) naked American ambition. With the assistance of legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe, he fashions a stark, neon-lit urban landscape that seems to comprehend and surpass all of its predecessors in the genre. ...

"SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS captures the sleazy allure of Manhattan like no other film; Howe's atmospheric night-for night location shooting turns a Broadway juice bar into a cross between a Weegee photo and an Edward Hopper canvas. The charmingly venal Sidney Falco was a breakthrough role for Tony Curtis, whose frequent miscasting, particularly in costume adventures, had become something of a Hollywood joke. Here, comfortable for once in an urban milieu, Curtis does a remarkable job, managing to elicit sympathy without compromising his character's essential tawdriness. His brash 50s hep-cat --- a kid who's risen a little above his station and masks his insecurities with manufactured bravado --- is a reminder that Cool wasn't invented by James Dean (who never even played a city boy). Lancaster, vividly sinister, seems ready to implode from surplus repression. Co-screenwriter Clifford Odets ("Golden Boy") contributes passages of lyrical slang to a Freudian scenario based on a novella by Ernest Lehman (NORTH BY NORTHWEST). The brisk jazzy score was contributed by Elmer Bernstein, who makes canny use of the Chico Hamilton Quintet."