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Desert Island Classics: The Sweet Smell of Success

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I try not to put too many films into this category but The Sweet Smell of Success (1957) is a unique movie. Burt Lancaster stars as J.J. Hunsecker, the sinister editor of a newspaper entertainment column and Tony Curtis as his Iago-like undlerling, Sydney Falco. Known for his terrifying smear campaigns, Hunsecker is weirdly obsessed with his adult sister Susie and controls her every move. When she falls in love with (gasp!) a jazz musician, Hunsecker will go to any length to destroy the relationship and convinces Falco to frame the boyfriend. The movie follows Falco's own love of power and how it entangles him in the quest to destroy the couple. What fascinated me the most about the movie was the use of jargon in the script. A translator is almost needed in some scenes where the two newspapermen quip back and forth in the language of the trade. There's a sense of zeitgeist in the film, in Susie's decision, and its condemnation of the "gutter press." Also available on blu-ray

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