My top 7 favorite quotes from Sweet Smell of Success (1957)


J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) is a newspaper columnist and the most powerful man in New York City. Whatever he says, goes. And right now, he wants to break up his sister Susan (Susan Harrison)’s relationship with Steve Dallas (Martin Milner). Enter Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), a press agent who will do anything for J. J. Hunsecker, no matter how despicable.

Sweet Smell of Success is so sleazy, it hurts. It’s so raw and unapologetic, it’s actually painful to watch at times. And that’s what makes it so damn good. That and the dialogue. Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets’ brilliant screenplay is incredibly tight and dripping with amazing one-liners and putdowns. I’ve seen this movie a number of times and every time I watch it, I’m like ‘I wish I’d thought of that!’. So I’ve decided to do a list of my top 7 favorite quotes from Sweet Smell of Success. Here we go!

7. ‘You sound happy Sidney. Why should you be happy when I’m not?’ (J. J. Hunsecker)

6. ‘Cat’s in the bag and the bag’s in the river.’ (Sidney Falco)

5. ‘How many drinks does it take to put you on that tropical island?’ (Sidney Falco to Rita)

4. ‘I love this dirty town.’ (J. J. Hunsecker)

3. ‘You’re dead, son. Get yourself buried.’ (J. J. Hunsecker to Sidney)

2. ‘Match me, Sidney.’ (J. J. Hunsecker)


  1. ‘I’d hate to take a bit out of you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.’ (J. J. Hunsecker to Sidney)

Oh, what a great movie.

See you later, folks!

14 thoughts on “My top 7 favorite quotes from Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

  1. maddylovesherclassicfilms

    Incredible film. So many unlikeable characters. Who is worse? J.J who doesn’t seem aware that he is bad, or Sidney who knows that the things he does are wrong? Excellent performances.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always felt that. They are both as despicable as each other. However, I believe J. J. is completely void of feelings, whereas Sidney might actually have a heart. He’s completely self-centeed and will only look out for himself and do things that will benefit him, but when he does, there’s a little tiny bit of remorse there. I don’t know, I think Sidney ‘s life and career just got out of hand and he has to keep up with it, whereas J. J. is pure evil.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. maddylovesherclassicfilms

        Agreed. There is a small spark of hope with Sidney that he might change, and that there is a decent guy underneath that exterior. I think he is worse though because he knows he is doing wrong and keeps on going along with J.J. etc. Completely agree about J.J., surely one of the most nasty screen characters ever seen.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my all-time faves. A great movie in all aspects. And, as you so lovingly noted (with a pinch of arsenic), incredibly quotable. My late BFF, screenwriter/director Ric Menello used to constantly bounce dialog off each other from SWEET SMELL — down to first greetings in person or on the phone.

    Liked by 1 person

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