Burt Lancaster plays a Walter Winchell type gossip columnist (J.J. Hunsecker) who controls who's in and who's out in New York City. He is a powerbroker of epic proportions. Tony Curtis plays a sleazy press agent, Sidney Falco, desperate to be in Hunsecker's good graces. Hunsecker has an unhealthy obsession with his younger sister. He doesn't like her new jazz playing boyfriend so he enlists Falco to find some dirt on the boyfriend in order to break up the relationship.
Pretty much every single line of the film is quotable. In fact, this is the movie that the characters in Diner constantly are quoting to each other. New York City circa 1957 is just as much a key character in the film as are the main players. In fact when I think of this movie that's what comes to mind. Sleaze, greed, great lines, the evil Lancaster, the conniving Curtis, the great jazz score, and the gorgeous black and white cinematography of New York City of the late 50s. Absolutely stunning. One of my favorite lines is when Lancaster breathes in the New York air before getting in his car and remarks, "I love this dirty town."
Some of my favorite lines:
It's a dirty job, but I pay clean money for it.
Hunsecker: You're dead, son. Get yourself buried.
Hunsecker: Everybody knows Manny Davis - except Mrs. Manny Davis.
Sidney Falco: If I'm gonna go out on a limb for you, you gotta know what's involved!
J.J. Hunsecker: My right hand hasn't seen my left hand in thirty years.
Steve: Mr. Hunsecker, you've got more twists than a barrel of pretzels!
J.J. Hunsecker: Son, I don't relish shooting a mosquito with an elephant gun, so why don't you just shuffle along?
Sidney Falco: The cat's in a bag and the bag's in a river.
J.J. Hunsecker: I'd hate to take a bite outta you. You're a cookie full of arsenic.
Leo Bartha: [to Sidney, of JJ] Tell him that like yourself, he's got the scruples of a guinea pig and the morals of a gangster.
The list goes on and on. In fact, just reading these makes me want to see the movie again right now. Absolute perfection.
On another note, Sujan didn't like it much and mentioned that she was surprised by how much I did. Sorry honey!
Directed by Alexander MacKendrick