The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Every frame is like a painting in Sweet Smell of Success

with 14 comments

sweet smellThere’s something about the journalistic profession that makes it hard to get “right” on the movie screen. Once upon a time I worked as one, and until this day I haven’t seen a single movie that was anywhere close to the job I had.

Perhaps I wasn’t representative for the average reporter. Or – more likely – everyday tasks such as writing stories about the yearly tennis summer camp for children aren’t film material.

I’ve never recognized myself in movie journalist, regardless if they’re serious, idealistic and admirable investigating reporters or (which more often is the case) they’re cynical looser types with a sub-par ethical standard and an unhealthy lifestyle.

The columnist and the PR agent at the center of Sweet Smell of Success are no exceptions from this. They’re far beyond anything I’ve ever seen: completely corrupted and utterly uninterested in providing anything resembling to the truth to their readers.

But in the end the lack of realism doesn’t really matter. The idea of this little story about the power games between two unpleasant men isn’t to provide a documentary about the media business at that time. Its purpose is to entertain and it does this very well.

I don’t know what I love most about this film. Is it the smattering, poisonous, beautiful, beautiful dialogue, reminding me of the wits in All About Eve? Or the fantastic lead performances by Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and New York City? Or is it that the movie looks so gorgeous that I could take dozens of frozen screenshots out from it and put on my wall as a piece of art?

All I know is that I loved it. And that I need to get over my skepticism towards film noir. If there are more films like this one, the genre has more to offer than I’ve given it credit for.

Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, US 1957) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

December 4, 2012 at 1:00 am

14 Responses

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  1. Even though I’m not a reporter, I work in the field of journalism, so this definitely sounds very interesting. I’ll check it out.

    fernandorafael

    December 4, 2012 at 8:57 am

    • Well, I honestly don’t think this type of columnests exist anymore. But it’s a very entertaining movie nevertheless. Check it out!

      Jessica

      December 5, 2012 at 12:10 am

  2. Sounds good! I actually have all my journalism qualifications so know a little about the industry and you’re right, writing about who’s got married this week wouldn’t make the most enthralling of films! 🙂

    Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

    December 4, 2012 at 10:39 am

    • In this case they’re using gossip as a way to reach their own goals in life. Not journalism if you ask me. But it’s a good watch anyway.

      Jessica

      December 5, 2012 at 12:12 am

  3. Nothing beats a great Film Noir. Haven’t seen this one, but the journalism premise sounds intriguing. Just added it to Netflix — thanks for the heads up!

    Eric

    December 4, 2012 at 7:55 pm

  4. It definitely sounds like a sensationalized portrayal of journalists, but it sounds like it’s very well done. 🙂 Thanks for introducing me to this movie.

    Stephanie

    December 4, 2012 at 8:04 pm

  5. I think that this is a pretty good film, although not one of the best film noirs. I remember not being too intrigued by the story, but the cinematography is beautiful as you mentioned. There are however film noirs that have a better story, better dialogue, cooler characters, better cinematography, and so on. Hmm, I should re-watch this one though since it was a while since I saw it…

    svartnoir

    December 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    • Well I can’t tell since I’ve seen so few classic film noirs. But I need to broaden my horizon…

      Jessica

      December 5, 2012 at 12:13 am

  6. This movie has one of my favorite screenplays. Every line is a gem.

    Dave Enkosky

    December 5, 2012 at 2:28 am

  7. This is one of my favorite films. James Wong Howe’s cinematography is one of the reasons as to why. (The other reasons include Clifford Odets’ script, Elmer Bernstein’s score, and Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster’s performances, all radiating pure sleaze.)

    Nice to know you liked it too.

    Anna (@MovieNut14)

    December 7, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    • I wouldn’t rank it as one of my favorite films, but it’s really great! As you say – wonderful cinematography, script and acting.

      Jessica

      December 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm


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