Sweet Smell of Success – A Scathing Expose

August 1st, 2016

Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success

June, 1957Sweet Smell of Success has debuted with an eye-opening revelation of the dirty dealing poisonous power of the pen. J.J. Hunsecker, as coldly played by Burt Lancaster, is a New York City tabloid king. A mention in his newspaper column can be a career maker, or the kiss of death.

Directed by Alexander Mackendrick, and powered by the intense performances of Lancaster and Tony Curtis, Sweet Smell of Success clearly displays all the corruption and betrayal one could possibly imagine. Curtis’ performance as press agent, and J.J. Hunsecker wannabe, Sidney Falco gives us a character who desperately, and unethically, seeks his own personal success. Success attained with methods that know no boundary.

Sweet Smell of Success is an intense Film Noir that must be seen in order to understand what really goes on behind the making of tabloid headlines.

Sweet Smell of Success

July 31st, 2016

Sweet Smell of Success

Tagline – This is the story of J.J. – But not the way he wants it told!

Starring – Burt Lancaster (J.J. Hunsecker), Tony Curtis (Sidney Falco), Susan Harrison (Susan Hunsecker), Martin Milner (Steve Dallas).

Released – June, 1957

Directed By – Alexander Mackendrick

Produced By – Norma Productions, Curtleigh Productions, Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – J.J. Hunsecker is Broadway’s most powerful columnist. How powerful? Sixty-million readers powerful. He can make or break you with just a paragraph or two.

However, J.J. does have a problem. His younger sister Susan is seeing up-and-coming jazz musician Steve Dallas and J.J. doesn’t like it. Unable to talk Susan out of this relationship, J.J. now seeks to destroy Dallas personally and professionally.

Press agent Sidney Falco has been trying, without any luck, to brake up the romance on J.J.’s orders. His failures have caused J.J. to hold back on any positive publicity in his column for Sidney’s clients. As a result, Sidney has been losing both money and clients.

Falco is given one last chance by Hunsecker and is ordered to plant a false rumor that Dallas is a drug user and a member of the Communist Party. The pressure caused by this plan causes Susan to break up her relationship with Dallas so that he can continue to pursue his career without her brothers sabotage.

A confrontation ensues between Hunsecker and Dallas after the breakup and even though Susan and Dallas are no longer a couple, J.J. still decides to destroy the young musician’s career. Why? Because he can.

The effects of J.J.’s cruel retribution against Dallas cause Susan to attempt suicide in her apartment. She is stopped by the arrival of Falco shortly before J.J. also arrives believing the two in a totally different scenario.

NOTABLE: Robert Vaughn was originally cast to play the part of Steve Dallas, but was drafted into the Army before any footage could be filmed.

The narcotics detective in Sweet Smell of Success, Lt Harry Kello, is based on NYPD detective Eddie Egan, immortalized by Gene Hackman as ‘Popeye’ Doyle in the 1971 film The French Connection.

Famed New York columist Walter Winchell was the model for the character J.J. Hunsecker.

Originally intended to be produced with a modest budget of $600,000 the films costs skyrocketed to $2,600,000.

Sweet Smell of Success is listed on Entertainment Weekly’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time, and included among Steven Schneider’s “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.”

Love in the Afternoon

July 11th, 2016

Love in the Afternoon

Tagline – It’s more likely in Paris and more LOVELY IN THE AFTERNOON!

Starring – Gary Cooper (Frank Flannagan), Audrey Hepburn (Ariane Chavasse), Maurice Chevalier (Claude Chavasse), John McGiver (Monsieur X).

Released – June, 1957

Directed By – Billy Wilder

Produced By – Billy Wilder Productions

Distributed By – Allied Artists Pictures

Description – In Paris, detective Claude Chavasse has been hired by the husband of a married woman suspected of carrying on an affair with American playboy Frank Flannagan. Sure enough, she had been seeing the American almost on a daily basis. Her husband’s anger boils over and he tells the detective he will kill Flannagan.

Overhearing the conversation is the detective’s daughter Ariane. Unable to get help from the police until an actual crime has been committed, Ariane finds Frank to tell him herself. She is just in the nick of time. As the irate husband breaks into Frank’s room he finds the playboy with Ariane and not his wife who has just slipped out the window.

Flannagan is intrigued by the young woman who has warned him, but does not even know her name. She is also intrigued by the older playboy and decides to make herself appealing to him by playing the role of a “femme fatale.”

Flannagan’s interest is aroused and the two meet the next day and spend the night together before he boards a plane to leave Paris. She has now fallen in love with the older man.

A year later, Frank returns to Paris and the two meet again by chance at an opera and resume their affair. She continues with the experienced woman charade and Frank is not sure if he believes her or not.

Later Frank encounters the previously outraged husband who had burst into his room intent on killing him. They speak in a friendly fashion and Frank tells him about the mysterious Ariane. The husband suggests that Frank have her investigated and suggests detective Claude Chavasse.

It isn’t long before Chavasse realizes the mysterious woman is his own daughter. The age difference frightens him and he asks Frank to no longer see Ariane and to not break her heart. However, Frank has also fallen in love and, although he understands, doing this will not be easy.

A May – December romance has much going against it to begin with and Frank makes an excuse to again leave Paris. Is his the right decision, or is true love not measured by age?

NOTABLE: Initially, Love in the Afternoon was both a critical and commercial disaster. The general feeling was that Gary Cooper was too old and in ill health to have taken the role. In fact, Cary Grant had turned down the role due to his own age. However, as time passed the film’s popularity grew due to pure romanticism.

Audrey Hepburn made this film back-to-back with Funny Face.

Love in the Afternoon provided the screen debut for John McGiver.

Filming locations in Paris included the Château of Vitry in the Yvelines, the Palais Garnier (Paris Opera), and the Hôtel Ritz Paris.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

July 10th, 2016

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) (BD) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – The Wildest Gunfight in the History of the West!

Starring – Burt Lancaster (Wyatt Earp), Kirk Douglas (Doc Holliday), Rhonda Fleming (Laura Denbow), Jo Van Fleet (Kate Fisher).

Released – May, 1957

Directed By – John Sturges

Produced By – Wallis-Hazen

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Marshall Wyatt Earp is on his way to Fort Griffin, Texas to take outlaws Ike Clanton and Johnny Ringo into custody. Also on his way to Fort Griffin is Ed Bailey who plans on avenging the death of his brother by killing Doc Holliday.

Holliday’s girlfriend Kate Fisher spots Bailey in the bar and tells Doc that he is looking for him. When Doc enters the bar, Bailey tries to shoot him in the back only to be killed by a knife thrown by Holliday.

As for Earp, he finds that the local sheriff has released both Clanton and Ringo, even though the marshall has outstanding warrants for the pair. The local sheriff has no intention of helping Earp as he holds a grudge against Wyatt’s brother Morgan.

Holliday is arrested for the murder of Ed Bailey even though his acts were in self-defense. With this in mind, Earp and Fisher help Doc to escape an angry lynch mob.

Back in Dodge City, Kansas, Wyatt learns that Doc and Kate have arrived in town. Wyatt has no problem with the notorious Holliday providing he stay out of trouble. Beautiful gambler Laura Denbow is also in Dodge City and finds herself arrested as women are not allowed to gamble.

She is released by Wyatt, who is attracted to her, and allowed to ply her gambling trade in a side room of the bar.

With his deputies out of town, Wyatt is forced to deputize Doc Holliday after the bank is robbed and the cashier killed. Earp and Holliday avoid an ambush attempt and kill the bank robbers.

Back in Dodge, Doc finds out that girlfriend Kate has been seeing Johnny Ringo. When she tries to come back to Doc, he refuses. She swears she will see him dead. Wyatt and Laura have become increasingly interested in one another when Wyatt receives a letter from his brother Virgil asking him to come to Tombstone, Arizona to help with a problem.

In Tombstone, Wyatt meets with his brothers Virgil, Morgan, and James to discuss how to handle the trouble being made by the Clanton family who have stolen thousands of head of Mexican cattle.

After the Clanton’s kill young James Earp, the stage is set for the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

NOTABLE: Burt Lancaster agreed to do this film as long as he could star in The Rainmaker (1956), also produced by Hal B. Wallis.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was the second of seven films that Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster made together.

The actual gunfight took place on 26 October 1881 and lasted a mere 30 seconds, resulting in three dead men after an exchange of 34 bullets. The fictionalized gunfight in this movie took 4 days to film and produced an on-screen bloodbath that lasted 5 minutes.

John Ireland (Johnny Ringo) appeared in another dramatization of these events (My Darling Clementine) playing Billy Clanton.

The song “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” was chosen as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time by Members of the Western Writers of America

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die,” edited by Steven Schneider.

A Face in the Crowd

July 2nd, 2016

A Face in the Crowd

Tagline – POWER! He loved it! He took it raw in big gulpfulls… he liked the taste, the way it mixed with the bourbon and the sin in his blood!

Starring – Andy Griffith (Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes), Patricia Neal (Marcia Jeffries), Anthony Franciosa (Joey DePalma), Walter Matthau (Mel Miller), Lee Remick (Betty Lou Fleckum).

Released – May, 1957

Directed By – Elia Kazan

Produced By – Newtown Productions

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Ozark guitar picker Larry Rhodes is discovered in an Arkansas jail by Marcia Jeffries. He is invited to sing on a radio show where his down home humor and charm start him on a meteoric rise in entertainment popularity.

Given the nickname “Lonesome” Rhodes by Jeffries, he lands a Memphis television show. It is here that the dark side of Rhodes begins to show once he realizes that his popularity brings with it… power. He and Jeffries begin an affair which is followed by an accepted marriage proposal.

His continued success lands him his own show in New York City. More money, more power, more moral deterioration.

A woman shows up claiming to be Rhodes’ real wife, Rhodes betrays his discoverer and new wife Marcia Jeffries by running away with a 17 year drum majorette. Fame, influence, arrogance, and money have created a monster.

It becomes a sure bet that the moral course taken by Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes can only lead to pain and disaster.

NOTABLE: A Face in the Crowd provided the film debut of Andy Griffith and Lee Remick.

Director Elia Kazan and Screenwriter Budd Schulberg spent months researching the advertising world, even gaining access to ad agency meetings, in order to gain an understand as to the way Madison Avenue approaches and shapes the thinking of the American public.

Lee Remick’s baton twirling majorette required her to show up weeks before shooting in order to train with local high school majorettes.

A Face in the Crowd was the return to the big screen for actress Patricia Neal who had suffered a nervous breakdown after a much-publicized affair with actor Gary Cooper.