The Sweet Smell of Success

Starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis
Written by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Running time 96 minutes
United States 1957

Our last film before the summer break was Local Hero, featuring a memorable cameo by one of Hollywood’s most engaging stars - Burt Lancaster. Lancaster began his career as an acrobat but later turned to acting and in addition became a powerful producer with his own company - Hecht, Hill, Lancaster.

Alexander Mackendrick directed two of the finest of all the Ealing comedies - Whiskey Galore and The Ladykillers but in 1954, when the studios were sold, he found himself out of a job and moved to the USA. After a couple of false starts he was hired by Lancaster to make a film of Ernest Lehman’s novella about J J Hunsecker - a vicious newspaper columnist and his relationship with Sidney Falco - a devious press agent. Lehman (whose screen credits include North By Northwest and The Sound Of Music) had been a publicist early in his career and based the character of Hunsecker on Walter Winchell - the infamous journalist whose  column was syndicated and read by millions of people worldwide.

This brilliant noir drama, beautifully photographed in black and white by James Wong Howe, is one of the darkest and most unflinching films ever made about  show business.  An atmospheric score combines the music of Elmer Bernstein with the jazz themes of the Chico Hamilton Quintet to produce a perfect accompaniment to the sleazy machinations of the film’s plot.

As Sidney Falco Tony Curtis is the perfect foil to Lancaster - never better as the fawning agent seemingly willing to suffer any indignity to get his clients publicity. When Lancaster wants a light for his cigarette he only has to say   ‘Match me Sidney’ and Curtis is there to oblige...