Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

In director Alexander Mackendrick's examination of New York's dark underside from a script by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman:

  • in the film's opening, the view of a large poster adorning the back of a truck: "GO WITH THE GLOBE, READ J.J. HUNSECKER - The Eyes of Broadway", with a rectangular logo that displayed the thick, horn-rimmed and spectacled eyes of the famous power-mongering NY columnist J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) for the New York Globe newspaper
  • the desperation of weasely, aspiring, two-bit, pandering press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), a well-dressed, glamorous, manipulative pretty-boy Broadway agent who was always struggling to place promotional items for media exposure for his show-biz clients into Hunsecker's popular syndicated column in the newspaper, titled: "The Eyes of Broadway"
  • the back-story of Falco's predicament -- he had failed dismally on his latest personal assignment - to break up the romance between the domineering and overprotective Hunsecker's 19 year-old younger sister Susan Hunsecker (Susan Harrison) and her blonde-haired boyfriend, up-and-coming jazz musician Steve Dallas (Martin Milner) - therefore, the unyielding Hunsecker had denied any column space to Sidney's pandering attempts at publicity, and had exiled or banished Sidney from his sight
  • the first look at the actual, beetle-browed, thick-spectacled, pallor-faced, power-mongering, crew-cutted NY columnist Hunsecker in the "21" Restaurant where he regularly held court
  • Hunsecker's brilliant, but vitriolic and foul description of lackey press agent Sidney Falco that ended with the famous line: "Match me, Sidney": "Mr. Falco, let it be said at once, is a man of forty faces, not one. None too pretty and all deceptive. You see that grin? That's the, uh, that's the charming street-urchin face. It's part of his helpless act. He throws himself upon your mercy. He's got a half-dozen faces for the ladies. But the one I like, the really cute one, is the quick, dependable chap - nothing he won't do for you in a pinch. So he says! Mr. Falco, whom I did not invite to sit at this table tonight, is a hungry press agent and fully up to all the tricks of his very slimy trade. (He turned with an unlit cigarette toward Sidney, gestured, and waited) Match me, Sidney"
  • the scene of Hunsecker's threatening put-down of politician-Senator Harvey Walker (William Forrest) for dallying with show-biz hopeful Miss Linda James (Autumn Russell), the Senator's call-girl, and her alleged agent-manager Manny Davis (Jay Adler) who was pimping her to the Senator: "But why furnish your enemies with ammunition? You're a family man, Harvey, and some day, God-willing, you may want to be President. And here you are, out in the open, where any hep person knows that this one (the camera swung over to Manny) is toting that one (the camera moved wildly over to the blonde mistress) around for you (the camera concentrated on the Senator)! Are we kids, or what?"
  • the short scene outside the restaurant when Hunsecker and Sidney observed a drunk being thrown out of Club Pigalle into the street and kicked, when Hunsecker turned and sadistically smiled with an exultant grin: "I love this dirty town"
  • the night scene in which Hunsecker gazed out and towered over the skyline from his high-rise penthouse to survey the prone city below that he loved, possessed, and dominated like an imperious gargoyle
  • the famous line of dialogue when Hunsecker insulted Falco for his evil nature: "I'd hate to take a bite out of you. You're a cookie full of arsenic"
  • the scene of Steve standing up to Hunsecker's manipulations of his romantic relationship with Susan - first smearing him as a dope-smoker and Communist, then forbidding them to be together: "My whole interest, if it's not too late, is in Susie. And how to undo what you've done to her...I don't like the way you toy with people. Your contempt and malice?...You think about yourself and about your column. To you, you're some kind of a national glory. But to me and a lot of people like me, your slimy scandal and your phony patriotics. To me, Mr. Hunsecker, you're a national disgrace"
  • the revelation of Hunsecker's forbidding, secretive life as a repressed, asexual bachelor who exhibited unnatural possessiveness for his sister Susan - his over-reaching protectiveness toward her and demands to break up her relationship by having Steve beaten up and falsely arrested caused her to attempt suicide by hurling herself from the high-rise balcony; at first, she threatened Falco: "You're gonna be the man who drove his beloved little sister to suicide" - and though Falco rescued her from suicide, a rigid-faced, menacing Hunsecker arrived home at that very moment and misinterpreted the situation, thinking that Sidney had attempted rape
  • the final scene of Susan's departure to escape from her smothering brother and spineless, fast-talking Falco (both responsible for Steve's hospitalization); before leaving, she vilified her brother: "I'd rather be dead than living with you. For all the things you've done, J.J., I know I should hate you. But I don't. I pity you"; she strode into the early morning sunlight at film's end


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