Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

Top 50 Greatest NYC Movies — #19

Sweet Smell of Success (dir. Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)

08-01 Sweet Smell of Success

“I love this dirty town!” is the famous line about New York that drips from Burt Lancaster’s mouth in this classic Roman a Clef based on the travails of Walter Winchell. From the Brill Building in Times Square to Toots Shor and the 21 Club (just after the latter’s West 52nd Street address lost the title of “Swing Street”), we are treated to a thoroughly modern midtown where newspapers and gossip rule the roost. As the predecessors of today’s Liz Smith and Page Six wheel and deal, Mackendrick gives us a whirling dervish of a city rife with “the neurotic energy of the crowded sidewalks.”

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