J.J. Hunsecker, the most powerful newspaper columnist in New York, is determined to prevent his sister from marrying Steve Dallas, a jazz musician. He therefore covertly employs Sidney Falco, a sleazy and unscrupulous press agent, to break up the affair by any means possible.Written by
David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>
They know him - and they shiver - the big names of Broadway, Hollywood and Capitol Hill. They know J.J.- the world-famed columnist whose gossip is gospel to sixty million readers! They know the venom that flickers in those eyes behind the glasses - and they fawn - like Sid Falco, the kid who wanted "in" so much, he'd sell out his own girl to stand up there with J.J., sucking in the sweet smell of success! This is J.J.'s story - but not the way he would have liked it told! See more »
The Chico Hamilton Quintet was chosen to play the jazz band in the film partly because they represented the West Coast and cool jazz styles popular at the time, but also because they were "clean". The producers screened them for months to make sure they weren't drug users to avoid giving Walter Winchell anything that he could use against the film. See more »
During the theater confrontation scene, Hunsecker is writing on a small note pad, but the pad and pen suddenly vanish from his hands as he and Falco move up onto the stage. See more »
"I love this dirty town". "Match me, Sidney". "Maybe I left my sense of humour in my other suit". Great dialogue. Great script, great cinematography, great acting, great music. Christ, what do you want, blood? From the first moment we see Burt Lancaster as the impossibly sinister J.J., we know we're in for a cracking time. There he is, sitting at the restaurant table, wearing those strangely scary glasses, his face expressionless (perhaps he's smiling, just a little bit), talking to Sidney without even looking at him, firing the dialogue like bullets. When the action seeps into the New York streets, oozing menace, there's J.J. - master of all he surveys, twisting cops round his little finger, snarling and seething like some desperate animal. And there is something animal about this film: its characters writhe and twist in the lights and the shadows - demented, tortured creatures, all of them trying to maintain some semblance of normality, all of them aware, deep down, how corrupt and helpless they are. The symbols of goodness - J.J.'s sister and her boyfriend - are weak, pathetic, hopeless, unable to keep up with the neverending twists and turns of this awful labyrinth of manipulation and cruelty. Curtis and Lancaster were never better, and it's awesome to see them play such grotesque yet believable roles. How do people get like this? Where do they go from here? Perhaps it's best not to think about it, and just wallow in the brilliant nastiness of it all, before maybe going home and getting in the shower for a long, long time.
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