Theater: Baby, It's Dark Outside

Sweet Smell of Success is a pale shadow of the noir classic it's based on. Here's what went wrong

For a movie about unscrupulous people doing nasty things to one another--a 96-min. black-and-white film that flopped at the box office in 1957--Sweet Smell of Success has nuzzled its way into the hearts of a surprising number of moviegoers. The story of a powerful gossip columnist (Burt Lancaster), modeled on Walter Winchell, and the ambitious press agent (Tony Curtis) who tries to curry his favor, it now seems one of the high points of Hollywood film noir. With its crackling Clifford Odets-Ernest Lehman dialogue ("You're dead, son. Get yourself buried"), it offers a cynical, clued-in portrayal of the underbelly of New...

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