Sweet Smell of Successi is a sad, atrocious misery of a film, if you can call it that.
You could alternatively call it "a collection of caged monkeys chewing at the scenery" or "a five years old's notion of evening entertainment : a farting, armpit-farting and balloon-farting competition, whereby a bunch of 1950s suburban kids gathered around the pool on the occasion of one's birthday produce a certain predictable noise through fondling their armpits in the water, craftily holding inflated balloons slightly open, as well as playing with their own assholes".
There's plenty of assholes in this "Sweet Smell of Success", lemme tell ya! Incomprehensible if thoroughly reprehensible assholes purposelessly dotting the langscape, none of which having any apparent business (there or anywhere) nor making any sense besides contributing ample volumes of hot air to that supposedly "sweet" smell of auctorially-defined "success". The viewer is left without the barest hint of the faintest whiff of success throughout, it looks rather to be the case, in Mack&drick's patently deranged estimation, that success is whatever the fuck he says it is.
For cause that predates reason (and very well might connect this misshapen wreck with the doubtlessly unfortunate childhood of the director) the entire production/flea circus gravitates around this one particular cunt who, besides wearing the same one fur coat throughout the proceedings -- yes, even indoors, such as in her own bedroom. Over a nighty, what, problem ? That's not how you use nutria ? They even joke about it, I mean in the script (unless the blowhard donning a Burt Lancaster disguise ad-libbed it), turning the whole thing into such a missed opportunity at self-parody as only Americana can deliver.
Anyways, the pile's mildly interesting for purely lateral reasons, such as the shot of period Delemonico spuriously inserted among the frames, or Ruffiano's amusing "office" consisting of a literal boudoir -- there's a bedroom and an anteroom wherein a "good girl" sits behind a desk and frets. I couldn't discern if the film implies that she's familiar with the intimate workings of that bed in a most personal sense, or implies that she isn't -- but in any case it makes no fucking difference. Girl works in the ante-room to rando dude's bedroom, what more ?
The misfortunate Walter Winchellii, whose real world persona this idiotic production quaintly if quite unintentionally assassinates, was orders of magnitude more personable, to say nothing of funny, socially adjusted, connected, intelligent, cultivated and for that matter washed -- the decerebrates ricocheting off the walls and talking into each others' air in the film don't seem capable of putting soap to much use on their own power, or for that matter all that likely to ever end up in close contact with running water. How the fuck anyone in the 50s managed to produce such a bland, lame and thoroughly collapsible rendition of the wisecrack era... I mean these dorks don't ever say anything funny, not ever, they don't play, they don't... it's like they're from the fifties, all dour and pucker-fuckfaced. There's even McCarthy-ism retrofitted in there, but not the slightest whiff of golden era.iii
I suppose there's no strong reason to not see this if you really want to, but... well, don't breathe in, what can I say.———
- 1957, by Alexander Mackendrick, with Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis [↩]
- You know, the widely copied guy with "Good Evening Mr. & Mrs. America & All The Ships At Sea".
And speaking of "nothing's ex-er than an ex-" : try and find a collection of his lasties somewhere online, if you can. But you can't, can you ? You can't, because... well, more of the same but less of everything, see. [↩]
- And no, he didn't live with his "sister", he lived with some woman while being married to some other woman, like everyone back then, back when the big deal was "no divorce" (as opposed to later, when the big deal in the same line was "no abortion"). And no, he didn't worship the cunt, like he's insanely misdepicted here. In fact, before his doing, "no U.S. paper hawked rumors about the marital relations of public figures until they turned up in divorce courts", transparently if self-obviously because no newspaper anywhere, from coast to coast, had the balls to breach the sanctity of cunthood's cocoon -- for everyone else it was "too much" to put the lazy, dumb bitches on the grill for their inept if disavowed discapacity for keeping a man interested.
But none of that's important. What's truly important is that this fellow, the real Winchell, was so dedicated to his craft, his craft, his own and personally his, that as a seventy year old, in a thoroughly changed world, he'd write "his column", xerox it and hand it out on the street corner. He didn't command the same audience he had at his feet half a century prior, it's true -- but he didn't command it in the same exact way. They changed from under him, over him, from breast to breast and all the shitheads whatever, it's true... but the horse stayed a horse, throughout and thick and thin and all of it. That's something, something this piece of shit "film" ain't ever gonna be. [↩]