The Sweet Smell of Success
Alexander Mackendrick, 1957, USA
Screenplay: Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman
Coming from Ealing, Mackendrick went to America and made this vehement attack on the noxious shwbiz gossip journalism scene. Moving stateside, the wit is less satirical and more acidic. Full of memorable put-downs and one-liners that are just desperate to punch you. The pace is at an authoritative stride and you’d best keep up.
Elmer Bernsteins’s score keeps up the jazz dizziness and cool, never overpowering the dialogue but always paralleling the sense of characters constantly riffing. And with that heavy-hitting script and actors at their best, with that agile camera following and gliding through James Wong Howe’s wonderful black-and-white photography, it’s definitely a film where everyone is at the top of their game.
And of course, these men would never think they might be beaten at their own game.
A cold classic.