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Arbogast1960's Movie Reviews (50)

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Sweet Smell of Success 
"You're a cookie full of arsenic."
4/4 stars

Quite simply the best Billy Wilder film that Billy Wilder never made. As nasty and acerbic a film as you're likely to come across, with an outstanding, eminently quotable screenplay from Clifford Odets and the wonderful Ernest Lehman (Sabrina, North by Northwest, The Sound of Music). While the supporting performances are all solid, this film belongs to Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis as the press' answer to Leopold and Loeb. Lancaster (of whom I've never been terribly fond) delivers the performance of a lifetime as J.J. Hunsecker (a not-so-thinly veiled Walter Winchell), a bilious columnist who finds his only happiness in blithely ruining the careers of performers and politicians. Curtis is similarly excellent as the slimy Sidney Falco, a press agent who makes his living getting pieces into Hunsecker's column. The stark black-and-white cinematography is requisitely cold, and the mid-1950s New York scene is well captured. But this is a film, much like Sunset Boulevard or Ace in the Hole, that you watch for the barbed dialogue too clever to be delivered by real people, and the marvelous, steely performances that render the speakers just real enough to be believed.


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