Sweet Smell of Success
“Match me, Sidney."
James Wong Howe had just won his Oscar for his black-and-white cinematography for “The Rose Tattoo” when the star of the film, Burt Lancaster, hired him to shoot his next picture, “Sweet Smell of Success.” Howe and director Alexander Mackendrick knew right away that to tell this story properly, they really needed to film on the streets of New York City at night. So they did, and in the process created a stunningly gorgeous and dark film noir that feels like it truly lives in the city, not on some Hollywood soundstage. Join us — Pete Wright and Andy Nelson — as we continue our Black-and-White Cinematography of James Wong Howe series with Mackendrick’s wonderful 1956 film, “Sweet Smell of Success.” We talk about the chiaroscuro look that Howe captured in this film, and also look at the deep focus and camera movement and how it all helps tell the story. We chat about Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets, the writers, looking at what they each contributed to the wickedly brilliant dialogue. We discuss the cast — notably Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Marty Milner, Barbara Nichols and Emile Meyer — and what they bring to the table. We touch on Walter Winchell, the figure on whom Lancaster’s character was based. And we talk about how the film was received at the time — poorly — as well as how opinion of it changed over time. It’s a film that feels biting and dangerous, and it’s one we enjoy quite a bit. Tune in!
- Script Transcript
- Original theatrical trailer
- Original poster artwork
- Sweet Smell of Success & Other Stories — Ernest Lehman
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