The vicious hierarchy of the animal kingdom is sometimes difficult to fully grasp as we humans are thoughtful creatures with characteristics exclusive to humanity such as compunction and empathy. Conversely there is another side to man that may mirror the the bestial ruthlessness of the animal kingdom. This alternate aspect transcends beyond the animal’s savagery to a darker dimension of mercilessness. Where the hostile law of the wild may seem brutal, it is instinctual genetic programming that’s essential for animal survival in such an environment. With humanity, the cruel and inhumane treatment of others are conscious choices made from dark recesses of the mind; often fueled by greed and malice. In Director Alexander Mackendrick’s 1957 film Sweet Smell of Success,
Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) is a
Falco manages to get a competing columnist of Hunsecker to smear
When the payoff from Hunsecker’s devious manipulation could have endured, his pride gets the best of him as he decides to ruin
The film is raw and unmerciful in its depiction of lead characters of Sidney Falco and J.J. Hunsecker.
The film is rife with references to animals. From the “dog eat dog” entertainment business they live within, to Steve Dallas telling Sidney (who is sniffing around for information about the relationship status between Dallas and Susan Hunsecker) that if he wants to know he should just ask like a man and not, “scratch for it like a dog.” Even Susan tells
The characters considered weak in the context of this predatory terrain would be Dallas and Susan. Steve Dallas is possibly (and most humorously) one of the least hip jazz musicians ever captured on film. While he has talent in spades, he can’t bring himself to respect the hierarchy of the pack and thereby facilitating his own exile via the influence of J.J. Hunsecker.
When J.J. could have let the confrontation with
Sweet Smell of Success is a beautifully photographed film integrating infamous landmarks like The 21 Club to many exterior location scenes shot in the urban wild of New York City. From Flat Iron to
The screenplay, by legends Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, is a wonderfully layered and complex piece of writing. Ahead of it’s time, Sweet Smell of Success shows a revealing side to the manipulation of the public through the media and the unscrupulous people who control it by force feeding the flavor of the month to the public’s insatiable maws. The theme mirrors the feral predators of the wild that simply devour one meal only to forget the preciousness of the once living sustenance for the short time their bellies are full - that is until it is time to ravage and consume the next. It’s remarkable that Sweet Smell of Success and Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd both came out in the same year with their shared motifs and each depicted so unflinchingly. The standout aspect of the script is the crackerjack dialogue that has more electricity coursing through it than all the lights in