Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Wormtongue in Times Square: Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

By Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 18, 2022 | In Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast

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In his book on film noir, Arts of Darkness, Catholic philosopher Thomas Hibbs writes: “Subverting the rationality of the pursuit of happiness, noir turns the American dream into a nightmare. Noir also undercuts the Enlightenment vision of the city as the locus of human bliss, wherein human autonomy and rational economics could combine to bring about the satisfaction of human desire.”

Sweet Smell of Success is a sterling example of this theme in noir. “Success” is one of the great American idols, and the two acid-tongued protagonists of this film entertainingly embody the dark side of success in the seeking and the finding, as desperate publicity man Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) eats dirt instead of gravy from the train of ruthless gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster).

It’s almost like Wormtongue and Saruman in Times Square, if Saruman’s main goal were to stop his kid sister from marrying a jazz guitarist. But we don’t want to spoil it for you...

Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission.

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