Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
on 17 March 2011
There are certain actors who never get taken seriously throughout their career. Some don't really care, whilst others begrudge never getting the kudos they think they deserve. Tony Curtis is an actor who was seen pretty much as a pretty boy and comedian, his dramatic roles mostly snubbed during award season. However, on occasion he could portray a character well, as his Bafta nomination for `Sweet Smell of Success' shows. Curtis plays Sidney Falco, a sleaze ball promoter who is in the pocket of J. J. Hunsecker, the most powerful man in the New York entertainment industry. JJ controls what is hot and what is not, therefore Sidney has to do anything that JJ says to keep on his good side. Even if that means spreading false rumours and trying to split up young couple Susan Hunsecker and Steve.
Curtis as Sydney Falco is probably in one of his all time best roles; the charm and charisma that he used throughout his career is present, but it is turned to a dark edge as he manipulates and uses people. Throughout his film career you always felt that Curtis could be a smiling assassin, he was a little too good looking. Burt Lancaster as the powerful JJ is also excellent, acting as a modern day King, punishing those around him who do not do his bidding. As a double header the film is excellent, sparks fly between the leads as their relationship evolves. They don't like each other, but they need one another.
Unfortunately, the film is not really a two header and some of the other characters are awful. Released in 1957 `Sweet' strays into the world of Beatniks and jazz. Musically the film is a magnificent explosion of sound, but culturally it rings false. For my tastes late 50s and early 60s US cinema is a strange place that is not quite the Golden Era, but not the revival of the young directors of the 70s. Here the film falters because the female lead of Susan is far too wet to be likable. In one sense the film offers a modern woman, but her character is old fashioned in that she is not allowed to defend herself. This old fashioned feel jars with the darkly cynical and modern edge of the Sydney and JJ characters. Susan's love interest, Steve, also feels old fashioned. He is the moral compass of the film, but personally I found him naïve, sanctimonious and pious. This did little to endear me to either Susan or Steve, therefore undermining the force of the film.
In seclusion `The Secret of My Success' is one of Curtis' best roles, but unfortunately the film's storyline lets him down. His actions are undertaken to drive a wedge between two characters that you end up wanting to split up just so that they would leave the screen. Not the response the film makers would have planned for.