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Was “Sweet Smell Of Success” robbed at the Oscars?

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  • Teridax
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    In 1957, Sweet Smell Of Success was released starring Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster. The films premise on IMDB is: “Powerful but unethical Broadway columnist J.J. Hunsecker coerces unscrupulous press agent Sidney Falco into breaking up his sister’s romance with a jazz musician.”

    The movie is now considered a classic but did poorly in preview screenings when it was first released, sadly becoming a box office bomb. I think this is because a lot of Tony Curtis fans were expecting him to play the usual nice guy he had been playing in recent years, and were uncomfortable with his slimy Falco character.

    I think the movie deserved Oscar nominations for Picture, Adapted Screenplay, both Curtis and Lancaster in Lead Actor, and even for James Wong Howe’s great Black-and-white Cinematography, even though the film received zero Oscar nominations.

    What do you all think, did Sweet Smell Of Success get robbed at the Oscars?

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    Anonymous
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    I am not convinced of universal recognition of Sweet Smell of Success as a classic. The film has not aged well.

    More deserving of recognition of 1957 snubs were Stanley Kubrick’s great anti-war film Paths of Glory and Elia Kazan’s powerful A Face in the Crowd. 

    In addition, though it picked up a Best Picture nod, the entire exemplary cast of 12 Angry Men was snubbed.

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    Andrew Carden
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    Most certainly, though I’m not nearly as fond as Curtis as I am Lancaster.

    COMING SOON to The Awards Connection: The 100 Greatest Oscar-Nominated Performances

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    1957 was an unusual year in that they took a break from the B&W/Color split in some of the craft categories, and you can see from the results how enamored the Academy was with big, vibrant color films.  All the craft categories were color films and while two B&W titles vied for Best Picture, they received the fewest nominations of the 5.

    SWEET SMELL is a brilliant film, but a very atypical noir.  It’s loaded with cynicism more than violence, and the film was a veiled stab at Walter Winchell, who would’ve still had a following in the more conservative corners of Hollywood.  It has a positive ending, but not what you’d call an uplifting one.  I would’ve been fine with Lancaster or Curtis getting nods (they’re among the best of their careers), but the final acting nods are more conspicuous candidates re: the Academy’s tastes.

    I’ll disagree that SUCCESS doesn’t hold up 60+ years later.  The performances and the dialogue still crackle and the film feels very modern in the rhythm, look (Howe), and use of jazz (via Elmer Bernstein) for atmospheric effect.  PATHS OF GLORY, MEN IN WAR, A FACE IN THE CROWD and THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN are all classics that were overlooked that year, but the Mackendrick certainly belongs in their company.

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    Teridax
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    I am not convinced of universal recognition of Sweet Smell of Success as a classic. The film has not aged well.

    More deserving of recognition of 1957 snubs were Stanley Kubrick’s great anti-war film Paths of Glory and Elia Kazan’s powerful A Face in the Crowd.

    In addition, though it picked up a Best Picture nod, the entire exemplary cast of 12 Angry Men was snubbed.

    I agree that A Face In The Crowd was robbed even worse by the Academy. Arguably the first movie about the epidemic and personal dangers of “white male privilege” (before the term even existed) ever made. Even though I loved Alec Guinness’ Oscar win, I admit that Andy Griffith probably deserved it more on emotional range and overall merit for bringing Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes to hilarious and eventually horrifying life. Plus, if Guinness had lost for Kwai then surely he would have been far more likely to win for he was nominated for Star Wars 20 years later in his vastly more iconic role as Obi-wan Kenobi.

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