Sweet Smell of Success (1957), starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis (VIDEO)

Watch the trailer for Sweet Smell of Success, starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis; No. 2 on our list of the 100 best New York movies.

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New York movies: Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

New York movies: Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Deliciously lethal—like a “cookie full of arsenic”—this film adaptation of Ernest Lehman’s venomous novella about a megalomaniacal gossip columnist (Burt Lancaster) and a parasitic press agent (Tony Curtis) reveals New York’s fickle heart to be less candy-colored than bloody and pumping. Inspired by much-feared newspaperman Walter Winchell, the towering drama encapsulates the show-business spin that once went down after-hours in the booths of the ‘21’ Club and the upper floors of the Brill Building. British-born director Alexander Mackendrick brings a removed anthropologist’s eye to the city’s milieu, while cinematographer James Wong Howe bestows a shimmering noir palette on every authentic location. But it’s adapting screenwriter Clifford Odets’s syncopated symphony of improbably expressionistic dialogue that really lingers: Talk fast enough in this city and anything will sound persuasive.—Stephen Garrett


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