One of the first classic black and white Hollywood films that I ever saw was Some Like It Hot. Hell, that might have even been the first I saw because I had a real liking for Marilyn Monroe as a very young boy. As such, I am really unable to see Tony Curtis without thinking of his Cary Grant impression or dressing up as a female saxophonist. I know that in The Defiant Ones I will continue to see his dramatic side – but I don’t think I was quite prepared for what an awful human being his character was in Sweet Smell of Success.
Then again, considering that the other Alexander Mackendrick film that I have blogged about is the Scottish alcohol farce Whisky Galore, this is one of those films that surprised me all around. I mean, this is a noir film about the cut-throat men working in the New York press stepping on who they need to in order to achieve the sweetest perfume of all: success.
With Tony Curtis as the D-list press agent trying to get his own star to rise and Burt Lancaster as the ruthless columnist who uses his influence to get what he wants – this is a fantastic noir. Like, it is one of those noir films with a complex scheme (in this instance, to split up an engagement that Lancaster’s character finds unworthy of his sister) that has the twists and turns and yet it isn’t too convoluted (like some others within the genre).
At just over 90 minutes, this is one of those films packed with such great dialogue and plot points that it just went by in a flash. An hour in we were interrupted by a food delivery and…wow that hour flew by quickly. Knowing the ending, this is something that I know I’ll have to watch again in a few years in order to get that different experience.