EPISODE # 29: SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS is film noir at its finest, weaving together some very dark themes, stunning black-and-white photography, and a sultry score featuring a 1950s jazz quintet. Tony Curtis gives an astonishing performance as power-hungry press agent Sidney Falco, who is doing whatever he can to get back into the good graces of columnist and television host JJ Hunsecker, played by Burt Lancaster. JJ has asked Sidney to break up the relationship between JJ’s sister Susie and a young musician whom JJ feels is beneath her. Sidney has been unsuccessful, and in retaliation, JJ—who appears to be the most powerful person in the press—has refused to run any of Sidney’s items in his column until he succeeds.
In this episode of Classic Movie Recall, we discuss how Burt and Tony were known as romantic leading men before this film, and how it must have been a shock to see them portraying such ruthless media hounds. We talk about the tension during production of the film and how much of the script was written on the set at the last minute — yet the film ended up with oodles of brilliant dialogue: “I’d hate to take a bite outta you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”