Day 2 of Noirvember: Top Five Reasons Why I Love Sweet Smell of Success

For my money, one of noir’s most riveting films is the 1957 noir Sweet Smell of Success. Like all of my favorite noirs, I’ve seen this one numerous times, but every viewing is just as good as the last, and I simply can’t get enough of it.

This first-rate feature stars Burt Lancaster as powerful gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker, and Tony Curtis, in my opinion, the role of his career, as Sidney Falco, a toadying press agent who will stop at nothing to get a whiff of the aroma referenced in the film’s title. The other characters include J.J.’s beloved baby sister Susan (Susan Harrison), who is in love with local musician Steve Dallas (Martin Milner) – a relationship that J.J. employs Sidney to destroy. Also on hand are Sidney’s loyal but thoroughly disrespected gal Friday Sally (Jeff Donnell), Sidney’s some-time girlfriend Rita (Barbara Nichols), and a crooked cop, Lt. Kello (Emile Meyer), who plays a significant role in the film’s final scene.

Sweet Smell of Success is airing on TCM on the night of November 2nd and the morning of November 3rd – so for my post for Day 2 of Noirvember, I’m taking a look at the top five reasons why I love this film.

Tony Curtis is a revelation in this film.

  1. Tony Curtis. As I mentioned previously, I think that Curtis turns in a simply outstanding portrayal of a sycophant with scarcely a shred of decency or conscience. He treats his dedicated secretary (who works in an office outside the room where Sidney sleeps) like a servant, and he actually pimps Rita out to an unscrupulous newspaper columnist (played with flair by David White). And the way Sidney practically prostrates himself before J.J., on a regular basis, is a cringe-worthy thing of beauty.
  1. The music. It’s jazzy. It’s languid. It’s sexy. And it’s a perfect complement to the film. The of the film’s music was courtesy of Elmer Bernstein, a prolific composer who was nominated for 14 Academy Awards; he did the music for such films as The Magnificent Seven and the Ten Commandments, and he won an Oscar for Thoroughly Modern Millie.
  2. The cinematography. There’s very little in this film that takes place in the daytime; it’s all at night – dingy, shadowy, and dark, encircling the characters like a cloak.

    The New York City streets are like another character.

  1. The setting. Sweet Smell was filmed on location on the streets of New York City; along with the darkness, the city becomes almost another character. The realism elevates the film to another level.
  1. The lines! The dialogue in Sweet Smell of Success is like poetry. There are so many great lines that I’d be quoting the whole movie if I started listing them. But let me just offer this one, from J.J. Hunsecker: “Son, I don’t relish shooting a mosquito with an elephant gun, so why don’t you just shuffle along?”

If you’ve never seen this gem, don’t miss Sweet Smell of Success – and if you already know how great it is, treat yourself to a re-watch.

You only owe it to yourself.

Join me tomorrow for Day 3 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 2, 2019.

9 Responses to “Day 2 of Noirvember: Top Five Reasons Why I Love Sweet Smell of Success”

  1. The “look” James Wong Howe gave the movie is indelible. The intensity in the story and performances is not an easy thing to shake after a viewing.

  2. SUCH a great film. It’s my fave Tony Curtis performance.

  3. YES! To all of this!

  4. As hard boiled as it comes.

    Regards Thom

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