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Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Burt Lancaster , Tony Curtis , Alexander Mackendrick  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner, Jeff Donnell
  • Directors: Alexander Mackendrick
  • Writers: Alexander Mackendrick, Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman
  • Producers: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Harold Hecht, James Hill
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Letterboxed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: June 19, 2001
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005AUKD
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,872 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Sweet Smell of Success" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

A powerful film about a ruthless journalist and an unscrupulous press agent who'll do anything to achieve success, this fascinating, compelling story (The Hollywood Reporter) crackles with 'taut direction and whiplash dialogue (Time). Bristling with vivid performances by Curtis and Lancaster, this gutsy exposÃ(c) of big-city corruption is a timeless classic that cuts deep and sends a chilling message. It's late at night in the steamy, neon-lit streets of New York's Times Square, and everything's buzzing with nervous energy. But press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) is oblivious to the whirlwind of street vendors, call girls and con men bustling around him as he nervously waits for the early edition of The Globe. Whose career did gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) launch today...and whose did he destroy?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
118 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Won�t Believe It . . . August 12, 2003
There's no profanity. No blood. No guns, knives, or bombs. But the lack of these things doesn't keep `Sweet Smell of Success' from being one of the most wicked, hateful, spiteful, vicious, murderous portrayals of how people can act toward one another.
Tony Curtis plays Sidney Falco, a two-bit New York press agent trying to reach for the big time. He's such a small time operator that his name is taped to his office door (which is also his apartment door). He makes promises he can't keep and ignores anyone who can't help him in stepping on others on his way to the top.
J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) is the King of Gossip. His newspaper column is read by 60 million people a day. He is truly the master of all he surveys, making and breaking celebrities with the stroke of his typewriter. He can see right through you and cut you to pieces in the time it takes you to light his cigarette. Yet you light it anyway. That's how powerful he is.
Falco is little more than a minor annoyance to Hunsecker, until the day that Falco learns that Hunsecker's sister is engaged to a musician that Hunsecker hates. Falco sees his opportunity to get in good with Hunsecker by wrecking the musician's career. That's when the sparks start to fly and they never stop until the end of the film.
Ernest Lehman's script is sharp, biting, and relentless. Curtis has never been better. And Lancaster, who has had many great roles in his brilliant career, is perfection. `Sweet Smell of Success' is just as powerful today as it was in 1957. Tough, gritty, hard-hitting...without any four-letter words. Can anyone make `em like this anymore? Not hardly.
1 hour 36 minutes
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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
This film, barely distributed upon release (it's a thinly veiled barb directed at the Walter Winchells of the world), features what is arguably the finest screenplay ever written. Ernest Lehman started the task, but Clifford Odetts (the later years, more bitter Odetts) was called in to "punch it up," as Tony Curtis later explained in a lecture at the Smithsonian a couple of years ago (the film was never shown publicly in Washington until the mid-1990's). (According to Curtis, such lines as "The cat's in the bag, the bag's in the river" were by Odetts, whom Curtis observed in a trailer on the set after midnight in Manhattan at a typewriter next to a whiskey bottle.) What other movie features lines like: "My left hand hasn't seen my right hand in 30 years"? This is clearly Tony Curtis' greatest role as a sleazy press agent, yet it is nearly topped by Burt Lancaster's chilling performance as a corrupt columnist. The dialog moves at breakneck speed chock full of such artifice that one is left nearly breathless trying to follow along. For jazz aficionados, check out the cameo appearance by Chico Hamilton's quintet with Paul Horn on flute and Fred Katz on cello, a rare film recording of their trademark "Tuesday at 2" late night jazz riffs. (The soundtrack equals the excellence of the rest of the film.) The photography by James Wong Howe is, as usual, impeccable, making ample use of wide angle lenses. For New Yorkers, this film captures the essence of Manhattan after dark. Although the setting is the world of the airwaves, the print media, and publicity hounds, the script is so true to life that I've found astonishing parallels to my workplace. Yet the words are so laden with methaphor as to defy the imagination. Sit back and let this picture take you away. It's a ride you won't soon forget.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On my list of favorite overlooked films. April 12, 2002
April 12, 2002
If I had to pick one American studio movie that I felt was
unjustly forgotten in surprising relation to how entertaining and
timeless it was, there'd be no contest. `The Sweet Smell Of
Success' nearly always comes out of my mouth first when I'm asked
about my favorite movies.
Inevitably, I'm told rather pleasantly, "Never heard of it."
Try explaining to someone under forty that it stars Burt
Lancaster and Tony Curtis (two studio stars who don't penetrate
very far into contemporary consciousness) and that it concerns
newspaper columnists, and you're liable to receive a puzzled smile
in return. "That's one of your favorite films?"
By contemporary standards, on the surface, it just doesn't
Trying to explain its excellence in five hundred words or so
isn't easy, but I'll try.
For starters, we like to think that our present day is as
wise and hip a period as has ever existed. Why, this is the age
of irony. We've been there, done that. We're tougher, more jaded,
more cynical, more smart-alecky that anybody else, right?
Wrong. The flick is sharper, more adult and more vicious
than ninety percent of the stuff being made today, fifty years later.
What's more, watch this movie and you'll quickly realize that
the smarter-than-smart, hipper-than-hip dialogue of today (like all
that light weight mush from Kevin Williams and the beating-around-the-bush
repetitions of Quentin Tarantino) is apple pie easy compared to having
to do it a) without pop culture references or cursing, b) in double
time, and c) with a perfectly balanced ear.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars There Is No Sweet Smell Here!
I'm sorry but this was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Slow, dark, meaningless--at at times very badly acted. I expect more from Burt Lancaster... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Teri McCarthy
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent script enhanced by actors selected thoughtfully for their...
excellent script enhanced by actors selected thoughtfully for their parts. dialogue between curtis and lancaster particularly skillfull. Read more
Published 2 months ago by leon berton
5.0 out of 5 stars There's nothing more that I can add that hasn't already ...
There's nothing more that I can add that hasn't already been commented on by previous reviewers of this classic film. Read more
Published 2 months ago by 70's lover
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this film
Love this film! Seen it many times and I think the principal actors are totally under rated for their performances.
Published 2 months ago by NYCGIRL
5.0 out of 5 stars Crisp clear picture and audio
I'm giving this 5 stars, because in the genre of crime noir, this is one of the best examples. But keep in mind that film noir, by it's very nature, is loaded with corny dialog,... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mickey J. Allen
4.0 out of 5 stars Deservedly favous and watchable well done
This is for the weak of heart, and if you are a film buff you can add a half star. This is a must-see but it is not as good as the best in all categories of film making, but the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by R. Russell
4.0 out of 5 stars Well acted absorbing Drama
IF you love the aura of NYC in the fifties, you can actually smell the sidewalks after a rain. You will also learn about the cutthroat tactics of many conniving NY people.
Published 3 months ago by flash287
5.0 out of 5 stars Would be best picture of the year if released today
One of the top 100 movies. Great photography of 1950"s New York. Great dialogue. Best acting that I've seen from both Curtis and Lancaster.
Published 3 months ago by Rodney Stephens
4.0 out of 5 stars Great classic movie to see again and again!
I enjoyed this movie because it shows how some will do anything for a story, even if the person has to use others and be so kniving. Read more
Published 3 months ago by John L. Apodaca
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good movie
Very Good movie. Burt Lancaster plays against type, suppressing his natural charisma and exhuberance - no infamous grins here. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Beezus
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