Sweet Smell of Success

Coming at the end of the fifties witch-hunt era, Alexander Mackendrick's first American film finds the perfect McCarthy counterpart in J.J. Hunsecker, an all-powerful New York City gossip columnist. Played with acidic zeal by Burt Lancaster, Hunsecker will stop at nothing to get the dirt on celebs around town. With the mere stroke of a pen, he heartlessly stokes scandals and caves in careers. But for every Hunsecker there must be a Sidney Falco, a groveling press agent who will betray colleagues for a few column inches. Played against type by Tony Curtis, Falco has the sickly relationship of sycophant to the swill seller. Clifford Odets's adaptation outfits these two gossipmongers with enough scything jabs to clear-cut Manhattan. “This syrup you're giving out. You pour it over waffles, not J.J. Hunsecker,” says the callous columnist. Though created in the tradition of caustic critiques like Ace in the Hole and The Big Knife, Sweet Smell of Success has a special bouquet all its own.

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