Sweet Smell of Success - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Sweet Smell of Success Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 11, 2015
Why can't all films be made like they once were. The screenplay, acting, and cinematography are all top-notch and really elevate this classic to must see status. The New York night scenes are amazing and really lend an amazingly atmospheric feel to the film. Sharp dialog and even sharper schemes in the making, Sweet Smell of Success is amazing to behold. Highly Recommended!
½ July 10, 2015
One of my favorite scores and one that sticks in your head in a good way. Lancaster is the master
½ June 20, 2015
Brilliant writing and performances.
June 15, 2015
Sweet Smell of Success is about a press agent, played by Tony Curtis, who is willing to do anything in order to get his clients into the newspaper. As a result he tries to help a gossip columnist, played by Burt Lancaster, to break up the columnist's sister and her boyfriend. Yes, it is an entire film that revolves around a jealous brother who doesn't want to share his sister. Yet somehow the tone of the film and stellar performances by the actors elevates the simple story to be something better. It has a great look, and feels like it is an accurate depiction of life on the streets. The cinematography is stellar and I really feel the passion in all the lead actors. Tony Curtis is particularly slimy and unscrupulous, and even when he's in the background of a scene you can sense his feelings about what is going on. Perhaps one of the hardest scenes to watch is when he tries to act as pimp for another columnist by whoring out his girlfriend. I did struggle to enjoy Sweet Smell of Success, though, and not just because of that scene. It seemed that virtually every character was so overblown and dishonest that I really didn't like anyone in the film. It's tough to care when bad people are fighting with other bad people. However the real dilemma I had with this film is the dialogue. It was coming so rapid-fire that I struggled to follow along. Also they spoke in such elaborate prose that it was disingenuous and inauthentic. Real human beings don't speak in that kind of language, no matter what era this film took place in, and it seriously threw me off at times. I'd probably watch Sweet Smell of Success again if asked, and a second time through I might catch the rest of the dialogue I missed the first time, but it's not one that I feel any particular need to revisit despite the solid performances.
May 16, 2015
Rapid dialogue sets the tone for Sweet Smell of Success. Burt Lancaster produces and stars as the almighty newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker - a thinly veiled version of Walter Winchell. In a different time (1940s and 1950s), newspaper columnists commanded immense persuasive power, careers were built up and torn down overnight usually depending on the whims, grudges, or favors of a particular noted columnist or editor. Columnists can't be everywhere at once and they depend on a network of spies, interns, and friendly public officials to feed them information. Enter Tony Curtis' character Sidney Falco, a sleazy, neurotic, hounding press agent who is a slave to Hunsecker's will. Falco falls out of favor and will do anything to get Hunsecker's ear again; including selling his dignity, which he does over and over again. Hunsecker and Falco are positively medieval in their treatment of people's feelings even concerning members of their own family, such as Hunsecker's love-struck kid sister who has fallen for the wrong type of man (a guitar player) in Hunsecker's opinion. Hunsecker is played by Burt Lancaster, but despite Lancaster's best efforts this is Tony Curtis' film all the way. Lancaster is known for his diverse performances, but Curtis completely breaks type. Curtis shows audiences he can do more than romantic comedies. Undoubtedly a hectic film to shoot, Lancaster's firm produced the film and the cast and crew knew all too well the tyrannical nature of Lancaster as producer. Director Alexander Mackendrick pulls off a difficult script in short order with Clifford Odets re-writing almost all the dialogue and delivering it to the actors as soon as it came off the typewriter.
½ May 8, 2015
"Sweet Smell of Success" represents cinema at the very top of its game, combining some of the greatest dialog and most idiosyncratic, duplicitous characters, it's a voice that demands to be heard, expect no sympathy.
March 8, 2015
seeing Lancaster play bad and menacing so convincing like Robert Mitchum in 'night of the hunter"
½ March 1, 2015
Dialogue, acting, cinematography, and directing are all absolutely superb in this film. An absolute must-see for any film buff.
February 16, 2015
Hmph. I guess I was not paying enough attention to see the entire excitement and glory of this. Could not fully see the reason for the high ratings. Also would want to see Burt Lancaster without classes...
½ January 26, 2015
Near Classic Film Derailed by Gutless Climax

This is a movie that gets so close to greatness, it's stunning! But, then, the writer gets scared and decides to throw in the towel in a spectacularly wrongheaded fashion in the film's final minutes.

I recently saw 2014's "Nightcrawler," a film about a sociopath so absolutely determined to get to the top of the TV news game that he will do anything, and I mean anything, to make it happen. The key with that film is how 100% committed writer/director Dan Gilroy is to, not only follow through with his character and his storyline to the final credits, he actually doubles-down!

Here, screenwriter / original novella writer Ernest Lehman first created two of the most reprehensible, irredeemable characters in film history. They are truly awful, Godless people. Then, [SPOILER] he bizarrely decides late in the film to punish them both for their villainy. First of all, it completely undercuts everything that came before. Castrating their evil comes across as though you as a writer weren't committed to it in the first place. Second, the way it is done is confusing and clumsy. Plus, it's quick and results in an abrupt ending to the film. [END SPOILER]

This is something that separates the men from the boys when it comes to film. Being willing to go all the way with the despicable characters you've created, or throwing in the towel at the last minute. "Sweet Smell of Success" gives up, while "Nightcrawler" charges full-steam ahead!

Apart from that issue, the film is beautifully made, with James Wong Howe's excellent black-and-white cinematography, Elmer Bernstein's film score and Alexander Mackendrick's direction.
January 20, 2015
Burt Lancaster y Tony Curtis son dos tipos sin prejuicios la peor lacra en este excelente film que no tiene pierde, 5 estrellas!
January 17, 2015
I love it so much. The character drawing of the 2 main characters make it one of the best media satires of all time.
January 4, 2015
An extraordinary, unrivalled, utterly cynical piece of Hollywood noir, as Tony Curtis' sleazoid press agent rubs up against Burt Lancaster's formidable J. J. Hunsecker, the Broadway columnist who can make or break careers. Ernest Lehmann was hired to adapt his own novella about the poisonous relationship between a publicist and a newspaper columnist, but fell ill during pre-production. Producer/star Burt Lancaster gambled on Clifford Odets, the left-wing playwright considered a wash-up after he'd testified at the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Odets located the dark heart of Lehmann's story and exaggerated it through diamond-cutting dialogue that sounds like the poetry of the Manhattan streets. Sweet Smell of Success boasts a top-notch cast, sharp direction, atmospheric cinematography, and an appropriately jazzy score, making it one of the best noir crime thrillers ever made.
½ December 25, 2014
With excellent leads and a tight screenplay, Sweet Smell of Success establishes its status as one of the greatest noir crime thrillers of all time.
½ November 23, 2014
The sweet smell of success in Sidney and J.J.'s eye is indeed a cancerous tumor.
November 9, 2014
This is my kind of film. Gut punch dialogue worthy of Chandler, sharp cinematography, swingin' music, killer actors, and a complex web of lies spread over its gloriously slimy world of darkness.
September 16, 2014
With an all star cast that creates all star roles this movie is one of the best. Sweet Smell of Success is a certified classic.From the opening credits to the climatic ending, the scintillating dialogue and the magnetic performances from both Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis this is Hollywood at its cerebral best. The king of the thinking mans cinema. Has better dialogue ever been written, the meetings between all the different characters that inhabit this world of shadows and intrigue, constantly draw the viewers attention to this masterpiece. When the so called film buffs compile there lists of the "best" films and so on, this should always be talked of in the top five and yet though recognised more as the years go by this is still a highly overlooked film. That Marlon Brando, De niro, Nicholson and the like should be recognised so often in said lists when Burt Lancaster in this film and in so many others has equalled or surpassed there best performances is a real scandal. Perhaps because this film strikes at the very heart of the establishment and shows the media and press up for the unscrupulous scum they are that this is one those fellows would like to forget. It is always difficult to look the truth of oneself in the mirror and this is one mirror the media should look very closely at. A masterpiece from Lancaster, who's courage never failed when making films and was always ready to tackle the kind of film making that lesser men would not have dared to, not to mention casting himself in a "bad guy" role that defied his heroic, handsome leading man status. Let us not forget that this is the same man who through out his life was never afraid to speak out on subjects that were important to him, a life long liberal and contemptuous of anyone who excepted limitation. I love this film and both Lancaster and the picture were far ahead of their time.This movie, like so many classics of its period, is great to view, in its own right - but doubly so as an historic, nostalgic view of a time past.
½ June 22, 2014
While both of the leads managed to be slimy and unsettling, it didn't feel like too much monumental happened over the course, and only the music really kept it going.
February 14, 2014
Curtis & Lancaster are a perfect dubious match, one of the best films of all time
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