Sweet Smell of Success
Overview
Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 American film noir
Film noir
Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s...

 made by Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions and released by United Artists
United Artists
United Artists Corporation is an American film studio. The original studio of that name was founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks....

. It was directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Alexander Mackendrick
Alexander Mackendrick was a Scottish American director and teacher. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts and later moved to Scotland...

 and stars Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster
Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster was an American film actor noted for his athletic physique and distinctive smile...

, Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis was an American film actor whose career spanned six decades, but had his greatest popularity during the 1950s and early 1960s. He acted in over 100 films in roles covering a wide range of genres, from light comedy to serious drama...

, Susan Harrison
Susan Harrison
Susan Harrison is an American actress. She is most famous for her appearance in the 1957 film noir classic Sweet Smell of Success as the sister for whom Burt Lancaster has an unhealthy affection as well as in The Twilight Zone episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit."She is a graduate of the...

 and Martin Milner
Martin Milner
Martin Sam Milner is an American actor best known for his performances in two popular television series, Adam-12 and Route 66....

. The screenplay
Screenplay
A screenplay or script is a written work that is made especially for a film or television program. Screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression, and dialogues of the characters are also narrated...

 was written by Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets was an American playwright, screenwriter, socialist, and social protester.-Early life:Odets was born in Philadelphia to Romanian- and Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Louis Odets and Esther Geisinger, and raised in Philadelphia and the Bronx, New York. He dropped out of high...

, Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman was an American screenwriter. He received 6 Academy Award nominations during his screenwriting career...

 and Mackendrick from the novelette by Lehman. Mary Grant designed the film's costumes.

The film tells the story of a powerful newspaper columnist (clearly based on Walter Winchell
Walter Winchell
Walter Winchell was an American newspaper and radio gossip commentator.-Professional career:Born Walter Weinschel in New York City, he left school in the sixth grade and started performing in a vaudeville troupe known as Gus Edwards' "Newsboys Sextet."His career in journalism was begun by posting...

) who uses his connections to ruin his sister's relationship with a man he deems inappropriate.

Despite a poorly received preview screening, Sweet Smell of Success has greatly improved in stature over the years.
Quotations

Holding an unlit cigarette Match me, Sidney.

Put on the mask and dance for daddy!

You're dead, son. Get yourself buried.

Everybody knows Manny Davis - except Mrs. Manny Davis.

President? My big toe would make a better President!

My right hand hasn't seen my left hand in thirty years.

I love this dirty town.

Son, I don't relish shooting a mosquito with an elephant gun, so why don't you just shuffle along?

I'd hate to take a bite outta you. You're a cookie full of arsenic.

Well son, it looks like we have to call this game on account of darkness.

Encyclopedia
Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 American film noir
Film noir
Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s...

 made by Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions and released by United Artists
United Artists
United Artists Corporation is an American film studio. The original studio of that name was founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks....

. It was directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Alexander Mackendrick
Alexander Mackendrick was a Scottish American director and teacher. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts and later moved to Scotland...

 and stars Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster
Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster was an American film actor noted for his athletic physique and distinctive smile...

, Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis was an American film actor whose career spanned six decades, but had his greatest popularity during the 1950s and early 1960s. He acted in over 100 films in roles covering a wide range of genres, from light comedy to serious drama...

, Susan Harrison
Susan Harrison
Susan Harrison is an American actress. She is most famous for her appearance in the 1957 film noir classic Sweet Smell of Success as the sister for whom Burt Lancaster has an unhealthy affection as well as in The Twilight Zone episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit."She is a graduate of the...

 and Martin Milner
Martin Milner
Martin Sam Milner is an American actor best known for his performances in two popular television series, Adam-12 and Route 66....

. The screenplay
Screenplay
A screenplay or script is a written work that is made especially for a film or television program. Screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression, and dialogues of the characters are also narrated...

 was written by Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets was an American playwright, screenwriter, socialist, and social protester.-Early life:Odets was born in Philadelphia to Romanian- and Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Louis Odets and Esther Geisinger, and raised in Philadelphia and the Bronx, New York. He dropped out of high...

, Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman was an American screenwriter. He received 6 Academy Award nominations during his screenwriting career...

 and Mackendrick from the novelette by Lehman. Mary Grant designed the film's costumes.

The film tells the story of a powerful newspaper columnist (clearly based on Walter Winchell
Walter Winchell
Walter Winchell was an American newspaper and radio gossip commentator.-Professional career:Born Walter Weinschel in New York City, he left school in the sixth grade and started performing in a vaudeville troupe known as Gus Edwards' "Newsboys Sextet."His career in journalism was begun by posting...

) who uses his connections to ruin his sister's relationship with a man he deems inappropriate.

Despite a poorly received preview screening, Sweet Smell of Success has greatly improved in stature over the years. In 1993, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
National Film Registry
The National Film Registry is the United States National Film Preservation Board's selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress. The Board, established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, was reauthorized by acts of Congress in 1992, 1996, 2005, and again in October 2008...

 by the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

 as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Sweet Smell of Success: The Musical
Sweet Smell of Success: The Musical
Sweet Smell of Success is a musical created by Marvin Hamlisch , Craig Carnelia , and John Guare . The show is based on the 1957 movie of the same name, which tells the story of a powerful newspaper columnist named J. J...

was created by Marvin Hamlisch
Marvin Hamlisch
Marvin Frederick Hamlisch is an American composer. He is one of only thirteen people to have been awarded Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and a Tony . He is also one of only two people to EGOT and also win a Pulitzer Prize...

, Craig Carnelia
Craig Carnelia
Craig Carnelia is an American musical theater composer and singer, known for his collaboration on the musicals Working and Sweet Smell of Success.-Biography:...

 and John Guare
John Guare
John Guare is an American playwright. He is best known as the author of The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, and Landscape of the Body...

 in 2002. The next year, the AFI
American Film Institute
The American Film Institute is an independent non-profit organization created by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was established in 1967 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act...

 named J.J. Hunsecker number 35 of the top 50 movie villains of all time.

Plot

New York press agent Sidney Falco has been unable to get his clients mentioned in J.J. Hunsecker's influential, nationally syndicated newspaper column of late because of Falco's failure to make good on a promise to break up the romance between Hunsecker's younger sister Susan and musician Steve Dallas, an up-and-coming jazz guitarist
Jazz guitarist
Jazz guitarists are guitar players who play jazz music on the guitar using an approach to playing chords, melodies, and improvised solo lines which is called jazz guitar playing. The guitar has fulfilled the roles of accompanist and soloist in small and large ensembles and also as an unaccompanied...

.

Falco is losing money and clients. Given one last chance by the bullying, intimidating Hunsecker, he schemes to plant a false rumor in a rival column that Dallas is a dope-smoking Communist, then encourage Hunsecker to rescue Dallas's reputation, certain that the headstrong boyfriend will reject Hunsecker's favor and end up looking bad to Susan.

The plan works, in a way -- Dallas can't resist insulting Hunsecker's methods, and, forced to choose between them, the timid Susan breaks up with Dallas in order to protect him from her brother. Hunsecker, however, is enraged by Dallas's comments to him. He decides to ruin the boy after all (against Falco's advice) and wants to have marijuana
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

 planted on the musician, then have him arrested and roughed up by corrupt police officer Harry Kello (Emile Meyer).

It is such a dirty trick that even Falco wants no part of it, at least until Hunsecker promises to take a long vacation from his powerful column and turn it over to Falco in his absence. At a nightclub, Falco slips the marijuana cigarettes into a pocket of a coat belonging to Dallas, who is accosted by Kello outside the club.

Falco is summoned to Hunsecker's penthouse apartment, only to find Susan there by herself and about to attempt suicide. He grabs her just as her brother walks in, but Hunsecker, encouraged by Susan's silence, accuses Falco of trying to assault Susan.

In a climactic confrontation, Falco reveals to Susan that it was her brother who ordered him to destroy Dallas's reputation and their relationship. Hunsecker makes a call to Kello to come after Falco, who tries to flee but is caught on the street by the brutal cop.

Back in the penthouse, Susan, her bags packed, admits to her brother that she attempted to commit suicide, considering death preferable to living with JJ. She walks out on him, saying that she will go to Dallas and tells Hunsecker that she pities, rather than hates, him.

Cast

  • Burt Lancaster
    Burt Lancaster
    Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster was an American film actor noted for his athletic physique and distinctive smile...

     as J. J. Hunsecker
  • Tony Curtis
    Tony Curtis
    Tony Curtis was an American film actor whose career spanned six decades, but had his greatest popularity during the 1950s and early 1960s. He acted in over 100 films in roles covering a wide range of genres, from light comedy to serious drama...

     as Sidney Falco
  • Susan Harrison
    Susan Harrison
    Susan Harrison is an American actress. She is most famous for her appearance in the 1957 film noir classic Sweet Smell of Success as the sister for whom Burt Lancaster has an unhealthy affection as well as in The Twilight Zone episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit."She is a graduate of the...

     as Susan Hunsecker
  • Martin Milner
    Martin Milner
    Martin Sam Milner is an American actor best known for his performances in two popular television series, Adam-12 and Route 66....

     as Steve Dallas
  • Sam Levene
    Sam Levene
    Sam Levene was an American Broadway and film actor. He made his Broadway debut in 1927 with five lines in a play titled Wall Street, and over a span of nearly 50 years, appeared on Broadway in 37 Shows, of which 33 were the original Broadway Productions, many now considered legendary...

     as Frank D'Angelo
  • Chico Hamilton
    Chico Hamilton
    Chico Hamilton , is an American jazz drummer and bandleader.-Early life through 1960s:Hamilton was born in Los Angeles, California. He had a fast-track musical education in a band with Charles Mingus, Illinois Jacquet, Ernie Royal, Dexter Gordon, Buddy Collette and Jack Kelso...

     as Himself
  • Emile Meyer
    Emile Meyer
    Emile Meyer was an American actor usually known for tough, aggressive, authoritative characters in Hollywood films from the 1950s era, mostly in westerns or thrillers...

     as Harry Kello
  • Barbara Nichols
    Barbara Nichols
    Barbara Nichols was an American actress who often played brassy comic roles in a number of films in the 1950s and 1960s.-Early life and Career:...

     as Rita


Production

Faced with potential unemployment from the sale of Ealing Studios
Ealing Studios
Ealing Studios is a television and film production company and facilities provider at Ealing Green in West London. Will Barker bought the White Lodge on Ealing Green in 1902 as a base for film making, and films have been made on the site ever since...

 to the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 in 1954, director Alexander Mackendrick
Alexander Mackendrick
Alexander Mackendrick was a Scottish American director and teacher. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts and later moved to Scotland...

 began entertaining offers from Hollywood. He rejected ones from the likes of Cary Grant
Cary Grant
Archibald Alexander Leach , better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor who later took U.S. citizenship...

 and David Selznick and signed on with independent production company Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, enticed by their offer to adapt George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

’s play The Devil's Disciple
The Devil's Disciple
The Devil's Disciple is an 1897 play written by Irish dramatist, George Bernard Shaw. The play is Shaw's eighth, and after Richard Mansfield's original 1897 American production it was his first financial success, which helped to affirm his career as a playwright...

. After the project collapsed during pre-production, Mackendrick asked to be released from his contract. Harold Hecht
Harold Hecht
Harold Hecht , born in New York City, was an American film producer.Harold Hecht started his involvement with the New York stage at age 16. He appeared in numerous classical stage productions and later danced with the companies of the Metropolitan Opera and Martha Graham...

 refused and asked him to start work on another project – adapting Ernest Lehman’s novellette Sweet Smell of Success into a film.

Lehman’s story had originally appeared in a 1950 issue of Cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan (magazine)
Cosmopolitan is an international magazine for women. It was first published in 1886 in the United States as a family magazine, was later transformed into a literary magazine and eventually became a women's magazine in the late 1960s...

, renamed "Tell Me About It Tomorrow!" because the editor of the magazine did not want the word "smell" in the publication. It was based on his own experiences working as an assistant to Irving Hoffman, a prominent New York press agent and columnist for The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter
Formerly a daily trade magazine, The Hollywood Reporter re-launched in late 2010 as a unique hybrid publication serving the entertainment industry and a consumer audience...

. Hoffman subsequently did not speak to Lehman for a year and a half. Hoffman then wrote a column for The Hollywood Reporter speculating that Lehman would make a good screenwriter, and within a week Paramount called Lehman, inviting him to Los Angeles for talks. Lehman went on to forge a notable screenwriting career in Hollywood, writing Executive Suite
Executive Suite
Executive Suite is a 1954 MGM drama film depicting the transfer of power in a corporation in trouble. The film stars William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March, and Walter Pidgeon. It was directed by Robert Wise and produced by John Houseman from a screenplay by Ernest Lehman based on the...

, Sabrina
Sabrina (1954 film)
Sabrina is a 1954 comedy-romance film directed by Billy Wilder, adapted for the screen by Wilder, Samuel A. Taylor, and Ernest Lehman from Taylor's play Sabrina Fair...

and The King and I
The King and I (1956 film)
The King and I is a 1956 musical film made by 20th Century Fox, directed by Walter Lang and produced by Charles Brackett and Darryl F. Zanuck. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is based on the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical The King and I, based in turn on the book Anna and the King...

.

Pre-production

By the time Hecht-Hill-Lancaster acquired Success, Lehman was in position to not only adapt his own novellette but also produce and direct the film. After scouting locations, Lehman was told by Hecht that distributor United Artists
United Artists
United Artists Corporation is an American film studio. The original studio of that name was founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks....

 was having second thoughts about going with a first-time director, so Hecht offered the film to Mackendrick. Initially the director had reservations about trying to film such a dialogue-heavy screenplay, so he and Lehman worked on it for weeks to make it more cinematic. As the script neared completion, Lehman became ill and had to resign from the picture. James Hill took over and offered Paddy Chayefsky
Paddy Chayefsky
Sidney Aaron "Paddy" Chayefsky , was an American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay....

 as Lehman’s replacement. Mackendrick suggested Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets was an American playwright, screenwriter, socialist, and social protester.-Early life:Odets was born in Philadelphia to Romanian- and Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Louis Odets and Esther Geisinger, and raised in Philadelphia and the Bronx, New York. He dropped out of high...

, the playwright whose reputation as a left-wing hero had been tarnished after he named names before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Mackendrick assumed that Odets would need only two or three weeks to polish the script, but he took four months. The director recalled, "We started shooting with no final script at all, while Clifford reconstructed the thing from stem to stern". The plot was largely intact, but in Mackendrick's biography he is quoted from Notes on Sweet Smell of Success: "What Clifford did, in effect, was dismantle the structure of every single sequence in order to rebuild situations and relationships that were much more complex, had much greater tension and more dramatic energy". This process took time, and the start date for the production could not be delayed. Odets had to accompany the production to Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

 and continued rewriting while they shot there. Returning to the city that had shunned him for going to Hollywood made Odets very neurotic and obsessed with all kinds of rituals as he worked at a furious pace, with pages often going straight from his typewriter to being shot the same day. Mackendrick said, "So we cut the script there on the floor, with the actors, just cutting down lines, making them more spare – what Clifford would have done himself, really, had there been time".

Tony Curtis had to fight for the role of Sidney Falco because Universal
Universal Studios
Universal Pictures , a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, is one of the six major movie studios....

, the studio to which he was contracted, was worried that it would ruin his career. Tired of doing pretty-boy roles and wanting to prove that he could act, Curtis got his way. Orson Welles
Orson Welles
George Orson Welles , best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio...

 was originally considered for the role of J. J. Hunsecker. Mackendrick wanted to cast Hume Cronyn
Hume Cronyn
Hume Blake Cronyn, OC was a Canadian actor of stage and screen, who enjoyed a long career, often appearing professionally alongside his second wife, Jessica Tandy.-Early life:...

 because he felt that Cronyn closely resembled Walter Winchell
Walter Winchell
Walter Winchell was an American newspaper and radio gossip commentator.-Professional career:Born Walter Weinschel in New York City, he left school in the sixth grade and started performing in a vaudeville troupe known as Gus Edwards' "Newsboys Sextet."His career in journalism was begun by posting...

, the basis for the Hunsecker character in the novelette. Lehman makes the distinction in an interview that Winchell was the inspiration for the version of the character in the novelette, and that this differs from the character in the film version. United Artists wanted Burt Lancaster in the role because of his box office appeal and his successful pairing with Curtis on Trapeze
Trapeze (film)
Trapeze is a 1956 circus film directed by Carol Reed and starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida, making her debut in American films....

. Robert Vaughn
Robert Vaughn
Robert Francis Vaughn, , is an American actor noted for stage, film and television work. His best known roles include the suave spy Napoleon Solo in the 1960s television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., wealthy detective Harry Rule in the 1970s television series The Protectors, Albert Stroller in...

 was signed to a contract with Lancaster's film company and was to have played the Steve Dallas role but was drafted
Conscription in the United States
Conscription in the United States has been employed several times, usually during war but also during the nominal peace of the Cold War...

 into the Army before he could begin the film.

Hecht-Hill-Lancaster allowed Mackendrick to familiarize himself with New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 before shooting the movie. In Notes on Sweet Smell of Success, Mackendrick said, "One of the characteristic aspects of New York, particularly of the area between 42nd Street and 57th Street, is the neurotic energy of the crowded sidewalks. This was, I argued, essential to the story of characters driven by the uglier aspects of ambition and greed". He took multiple photographs of the city from several fixed points and taped the pictures into a series of panoramas that he stuck on a wall and studied once he got back to Hollywood.

Cellist Fred Katz
Fred Katz (cellist)
Fred Katz is an American cellist and composer. He is notable as one of the first jazz musicians to establish the cello as a viable improvising solo instrument. Katz has been described in CODA magazine as "the first real jazz cellist." Cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm Fred Katz (born February 25, 1919 in...

 and Hamilton wrote a score for the movie, which was ultimately rejected in favor of one by Elmer Bernstein
Elmer Bernstein
Elmer Bernstein was an American composer and conductor best known for his many film scores. In a career which spanned fifty years, he composed music for hundreds of film and television productions...

.

Principal photography

Mackendrick shot the film in late 1956, and was scared the entire time because Hecht-Hill-Lancaster had a reputation for firing their directors for any or even no reason at all. The filmmaker was used to extensive rehearsals before a scene was shot and often found himself shooting a script page one or two hours after Odets had written it. Lancaster’s presence also made Mackendrick nervous. He was both one of the film’s stars and a producer, and a frustrated director with a reputation for being tough on others. Shooting on location in New York City also added to Mackendrick’s anxieties. Exteriors were shot in the busiest, noisiest areas with crowds of young Tony Curtis fans occasionally breaking through police barriers. Mackendrick remembered, "We started shooting in Times Square
Times Square
Times Square is a major commercial intersection in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets...

 at rush hour, and we had high-powered actors and a camera crane and police help and all the rest of it, but we didn’t have any script. We knew where we were going vaguely, but that’s all".

Reaction

A preview screening of Sweet Smell of Success did not go well, as Tony Curtis fans were expecting him to play one of his typical nice guy roles and instead were presented with Sidney Falco. Mackendrick remembered seeing audience members "curling up, crossing their arms and legs, recoiling from the screen in disgust". Burt Lancaster's fans were not thrilled with their idol either, "finding the film too static and talky". The film was a box office failure, and Hecht blamed his producing partner Hill. "The night of the preview, Harold said to me, 'You know you've wrecked our company? We're going to lose over a million dollars on this picture,'" Hill recalled. However, Lancaster blamed Lehman, who remembers a confrontation they had: "Burt threatened me at a party after the preview. He said, 'You didn't have to leave – you could have made this a much better picture. I ought to beat you up.' I said, 'Go ahead – I could use the money.'"

Sweet Smell of Success premiered in New York at Loew’s
Loews Cineplex Entertainment
Loews Theatres, aka Loews Incorporated , founded in 1904 by Marcus Loew and Brantford Schwartz, was the oldest theater chain operating in North America until it merged with AMC Theatres on January 26, 2006. From 1924 until 1959, it was also the parent company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. The...

 State in Times Square on June 27, 1957. Critical reaction was much more favorable. Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

said that the movie was "raised to considerable dramatic heights by intense acting, taut direction ... superb camera work ... and, above all, by its whiplash dialogue". Both it and the New York Herald
New York Herald
The New York Herald was a large distribution newspaper based in New York City that existed between May 6, 1835, and 1924.-History:The first issue of the paper was published by James Gordon Bennett, Sr., on May 6, 1835. By 1845 it was the most popular and profitable daily newspaper in the UnitedStates...

included the film on their ten-best lists for 1957. The film's reputation improved over time, with David Denby
David Denby (film critic)
David Denby is an American journalist, best known as a film critic for The New Yorker magazine.-Background and education:Denby grew up in New York City. He received a B.A...

 in New York
New York (magazine)
New York is a weekly magazine principally concerned with the life, culture, politics, and style of New York City. Founded by Milton Glaser and Clay Felker in 1968 as a competitor to The New Yorker, it was brasher and less polite than that magazine, and established itself as a cradle of New...

magazine calling it "the most acrid, and the best" of all New York movies because it captured, "better than any film I know the atmosphere of Times Square and big-city journalism".

Sweet Smell of Success holds a 100 percent "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes is a website devoted to reviews, information, and news of films—widely known as a film review aggregator. Its name derives from the cliché of audiences throwing tomatoes and other vegetables at a poor stage performance...

 and a 100 metascore at Metacritic
Metacritic
Metacritic.com is a website that collates reviews of music albums, games, movies, TV shows and DVDs. For each product, a numerical score from each review is obtained and the total is averaged. An excerpt of each review is provided along with a hyperlink to the source. Three colour codes of Green,...

. Though Mackendrick's direction of the actors and his staging of the scenes are at times extraordinary, in recent years critics have praised only the film's dialogue, "courtesy of Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets, a high-toned street vernacular that no real New Yorker has ever spoken but that every real New Yorker wishes he could", A. O. Scott
A. O. Scott
Anthony Oliver Scott, known as A. O. Scott , is an American journalist and critic. He is a chief film critic for The New York Times, along with Manohla Dargis.-Background and education:...

 wrote
in The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

. Andrew Sarris
Andrew Sarris
Andrew Sarris is an American film critic and a leading proponent of the auteur theory of criticism.-Career:Sarris is generally credited with popularizing the auteur theory in the U.S...

 in the New York Observer
New York Observer
The New York Observer is a weekly newspaper first published in New York City on September 22, 1987, by Arthur L. Carter, a very successful former investment banker with publishing interests. The Observer focuses on the city's culture, real estate, the media, politics and the entertainment and...

wrote, "the main incentive to see this movie is its witty, pungent and idiomatic dialogue, such as you never hear on the screen anymore in this age of special-effects illiteracy".

Legacy

In 1993, Sweet Smell of Success was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
National Film Registry
The National Film Registry is the United States National Film Preservation Board's selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress. The Board, established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, was reauthorized by acts of Congress in 1992, 1996, 2005, and again in October 2008...

 by the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

 as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Time magazine ranked the film as one of the "All-Time 100 Movies". In 2002, Sweet Smell of Success: The Musical
Sweet Smell of Success: The Musical
Sweet Smell of Success is a musical created by Marvin Hamlisch , Craig Carnelia , and John Guare . The show is based on the 1957 movie of the same name, which tells the story of a powerful newspaper columnist named J. J...

was created by Marvin Hamlisch
Marvin Hamlisch
Marvin Frederick Hamlisch is an American composer. He is one of only thirteen people to have been awarded Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and a Tony . He is also one of only two people to EGOT and also win a Pulitzer Prize...

, Craig Carnelia
Craig Carnelia
Craig Carnelia is an American musical theater composer and singer, known for his collaboration on the musicals Working and Sweet Smell of Success.-Biography:...

 and John Guare
John Guare
John Guare is an American playwright. He is best known as the author of The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, and Landscape of the Body...

. In addition to AFI's naming J. J. Hunsecker number 35 of the top 50 movie villains of all time in 2003, Mackendrick's film has achieved cult film
Cult film
A cult film, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans. Often, cult movies have failed to achieve fame outside the small fanbases; however, there have been exceptions that have managed to gain fame among mainstream audiences...

 status because of its dialogue. Filmmaker Barry Levinson
Barry Levinson
Barry Levinson is an American screenwriter, film director, actor, and producer of film and television. His films include Good Morning, Vietnam, Sleepers and Rain Man.-Early life:...

 paid tribute to Sweet Smell of Success in Diner
Diner (film)
Diner is a 1982 comedy-drama film written and directed by Barry Levinson. Levinson's screen directing debut, Diner is the first in his "Baltimore films", which also include the subsequent Tin Men, Avalon and Liberty Heights.-Plot:...

(1982) with one character wandering around saying nothing but lines from the film.

Sweet Smell of Success was released on DVD (Region 1) and Blu-ray (Region A) as part of The Criterion Collection.

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