Celebrating and championing “The American Dream” was big business in post-war Hollywood. Whether it was tales of rags to riches success or just the ability for any man (and it was all men) to make their fortune through hard work and application, audiences couldn’t get enough of these heart-warming, patriotic tales. There were notable detractors though, and whilst this didn’t normally go down well in terms of box office takings, it produced gems such as Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success.
Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) is an ambitious Manhattan press agent, determined to succeed at all costs. Of late, he’s been unable to get any of his clients mentioned in J.J. Hunsecker’s (Burt Lancaster) influential nationally syndicated column. This is due to Sidney’s inability to break off the romance between JJs younger sister Susan (Susan Harrison) and upcoming jazz musician Steve Dallas (Martin Milner). As Sidney becomes increasingly desperate to regain favour, the stakes are raised and there are no depths he won’t steep to in order to rejuvenate his fortunes.
Sweet Smell Of Success is a brilliant film which trawls the dirty underbody of journalism, featuring mesmeric performances from both Lancaster and Curtis. Despite the great draw of the two leads, it tanked on release; both men seemingly ostracising fans by playing out of character. Unsurprisingly given the subject matter, it generated a lot of negative reviews. Every time Lancaster is on screen he exudes a sense of menace and danger which is exhilarating to watch. In retrospect, Sweet Smell of Success is heralded as a classic, and rightly so.
* Restored High Definition (1080p) presentation of a 4K digital transfer from the original 35mm camera negative
* Appreciation by critic and film historian Philip Kemp, author of Lethal Innocence: The Cinema of Alexander Mackendrick
* Selected scene commentary by Philip Kemp
* Mackendrick: The Man Who Walked Away – Dermot McQuarrie’s 1986 Scottish Television documentary, featuring interviews with Mackendrick, Burt Lancaster, producer James Hill and many others
* Theatrical trailer
* Reversible sleeve featuring an original poster and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Walker
* Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Brooke and Mackendrick’s own analysis of various script drafts, illustrated with original stills and posters
Sweet Smell Of Success is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Academy today.