Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Directed by Alexander Mackendrick. Starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis.

This film's status as one of the most quotable ever would by itself warrant it a spot on this list, but there's much more to it than simply a slew of great lines. Lancaster gives a wicked performance as the powerful gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker, and Curtis matches him (no pun intended- those who've seen the film will know what I mean) as flunky publicist Sidney Falco, who kisses up to Hunsecker for space in his column and cleans up his dirty work. Mackendrick and screenwriters Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets create an acrid portrait of New York in the 1950s, with its ruthless powers-that-be and unscrupulous underlings, who would do anything to be powerful in their own right. At one point, Hunsecker calls Falco "a cookie full of arsenic," and that describes this film as well as anything I could say about it.

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