Sweet Smell of Success
Sweet Smell of Success is a movie that intensively exposes dark activities of New York City. Various events characterized by greed, brutality, psychological violence, betrayal, and evils tint the image of the glamorous city. Burt Lancaster is one of the major actors who evidently bring out the decadences that take place in the city and, especially, at night. He refuses to publish Falco’s clients in his influential newspaper column because the agent has failed to break up the romantic relationship between Burt’s sister Susan and an upcoming jazz musician Martin Milner. Falco’s business is not doing well and he wants to take the chance given to him by Burt to intimidate and bully Martin so that he would look bad to Susan. However, Falco objects to Burt’s intention to plant marijuana on Martin so that he could be arrested and roughed by the corrupt police officers. In addition, Burt is an actor who portrays extensive use of tools of crafts for acting.
Burt plays a major role in the development of the plot of the movie to be based on the emotions of love-hate relationships. He is among the most powerful columnists in New York. Burt uses his publications to promote or break people’s career. His younger sister Susan is in a romantic relationship with Martin, a jazz musician (Feeney 146). Burt has so much contempt for this relationship that he blackmails Falco to break up the affair in exchange of his articles to be published in Burt’s column. He wants Falco to place marijuana in Martin’s jacket so that the brutal cops could arrest him. These acts reflect Burt’s personal style as pitiless and cruel (Feeney 147). More to say, a closer evaluation of Burt’s emotions reveals that he has incestuous feelings for his sister. Presumably, this is the reason why Burt grows hysterical when another man openly shows his interest in Susan (Feeney 147). He even wants to place false evidence in Martin’s jacket so that he could be imprisoned. In this way, Susan would see Martin as a bad man and reject his romantic intentions. Furthermore, had Burt succeeded in making Martin go to prison, he could also have succeeded in breaking the affair by creating a physical distance between them (Feeney 148). Secondly, it is evident that Burt fights to suppress the incestuous feeling he has for his sister. For instance, when he finds Falco grabbing Susan, he accuses him of trying to assault her and starts to beat him. However, Falco was trying to save Susan’s life after he found her attempt to commit suicide over the arrest of Martin, her boyfriend (Feeney 148).
In addition, although Burt and Susan are family members, Susan hates her brother. She tells him directly that she had attempted suicide because she preferred to die rather than live with him (Suskin 205). She also packs her belongings and walks out on him after Falco reveals to her that Burt was the mastermind behind the arrest and accusations made against Martin. Susan hates her brother for attempting to destroy Martin’s reputation and their relationship (Suskin 206). On the other hand, Burt is also portrayed as having emotions of anger and vengeance. After he finds Falco grabbing his sister, he physically assaults him. In addition, after Falco informs Susan on Burt’s plans to destroy Martin, Burt calls the brutal cop (Kello) to come over and arrest Falco (Suskin 207). Burt is also a deceitful person. He plays a dirty trick so that Martin could be arrested to separate him from Susan. He uses deceit to lure Falco into accepting to his plan against Martin (Suskin 207). Essentially, Falco is determined to save his business; therefore, he agrees to intimidate Martin when Burt promises to hand over his column to Falco because he will be away on a long vacation. However, when the plan fails, he turns his back against Falco and calls Kello to arrest him (Suskin 208).
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Primarily, Burt is a successful columnist who uses his position to intimidate other people. He makes publications to achieve what he wants and he can damage the reputation of celebrities using this column (Suskin 208). With his position and popularity, he has close association with politicians and can easily lure any girl into his lap. However, Burt is involved in other secondary activities. He selfishly cuts Falco out of his column because he has failed to break the relationship between Susan and Marti (Hishack 233). Even though Burt gets admiration from many people as a columnist, most of them do not know that he is not so positive as a personality. His involvement with the corrupt cop shows it is possible that the two have been involved in illicit activities. For instance, when Falco puts the marijuana in Martin’s jacket, Kello mishandles Martin under the watch of Burt even though he knows that these accusations are false (Hishack 233). Moreover, it strikes a thought that Burt is a drug dealer or abuser because he can easily access drugs such as marijuana to use as evidence against Martin. He also calls Kello to arrest Falco after a fight that pushed Falco to reveal the reality about Burt to his sister (Feeney 147). He also plans to publish false information that Martin is a dope-smoker because he cannot bear the thought of losing his sister to him. These are evil doings that are not expected from a well-known columnist who should know that romantic relationships are normal. Ironically, although Burt is willing to use all means possible to stop Martin from marrying Susan, he has multiple affairs. Due to his popularity, he can easily attract any girl he chooses (Feeney 148).
Presentational vs. Representational Acting
In the movie Sweet Smell to Success, Burt uses presentational acting in a way that reveals the identification of his character (Hagen and Frankel 12). This is evident when he attacks Falco on the allegations of attempting to assault his sister. Initially, the two had a deal to destroy Martin; however, at this moment, Burt is depicted as a violent and revengeful person. Presumably, he did not attack Falco solely for grabbing Susan, but also to take revenge for his failure to fulfill their deal (Hischak 232). There is no sign of kindness in Burt’s heart. He wants to ruin Martin’s life so that he cannot marry his sister. He even uses the corrupt cop to arrest him, an action that pushes Susan to attempt suicide. Burt does not show any sign of remorse in his action for calling Kello to arrest Falco yet, the pair had a dirty deal (Hischak 232). He forces Falco to put drugs in Martin’s jacket to incriminate him. Moreover, his show of love for Susan is menacing, he does not want her to continue with the plan to marry Martin. At the end, the same sister he worked hard to protect walks out on him. He uses his position and power in a presentational way that depicts his hatred for any man who is interested in marrying his sister (Hagen and Frankel 12).
Physical and Verbal Actions
Burt uses both physical and physical actions to ensure that his sister will continue living under his control. He verbally claims that she is the only thing he has and he cannot let her go off with another man (Hischak 232). Burt is restless from the beginning to the end of the movie. He is admired by many people in New York, yet he has failed to win his sister’s affection. He is obsessed to ensure that he will break the affair between Susan and Martin by all means possible. These actions portrays Burt as a having a double image; this is a way to encourage attendances to its performances (Olivieri and Telford, 15).He does not care if the means will involve destroying Martin as long as he achieves his dirty mission. In addition to using Falco as his aid in the mission, he plans to publish false information about Martin that will portray him as a smoker. On the other hand, he gets physically violent when he finds Falco attempting to save his sister (Hischak 233). He misinterprets Falco’s intentions and starts to beat him, an action that took Susan’s intervention to stop. In addition, Burt uses intimidating actions to turn his back against Falco. After the fight, Falco reveals to Susan that Burt was involved in putting Martin behind bars with the sole intention of separating them (Hischak 233). Burt is aware that this revelation will cause more problems between him and Susan. Therefore, he decides to call the brutal cop to come and arrest Falco. These are astonishing acts that a man can use to ensure that his sister is not married to the man she loves. However, the major actors in a film act as its marketing. Therefore, the actor must demonstrate different acting skills in order to make the performance of the film more interesting (Olivieri and Telford, 20).
Sociological Issues that Influenced Burt’s character
Women were treated with inferiority during the 1950’s. Society expected them to carry out their roles with absolute obedience and submissiveness both at home and in public. For instance, a perfect wife was supposed to obey all decisions made by her husband (Whyte 15). In the emphasis, even when she wanted to voice an opinion about her life, it was the man who approved such decisions. There were stereotypes that were discriminating against women. For instance, society did not treat women as having an independent mind; she had to wait for a man to approve her decisions. In other words, a woman was a basic symbol of downfall of a man (Whyte 18). The period in the 1950s presented a template that required women to fill it as obedient and submissive. Some parents would even choose a marriage partner for their daughters who were expected to obey without any question (Whyte 25). In the movie Sweet Smell of Success, Burt wants Susan to behave like other women living in this period. He expected Susan to stop her plans to marry Martin not because the latter had bad manners, but because her brother hated him. He wants to use his position to ensure that he gets everything that he greedily desires at the expense of others like Falco and Martin (Hischak 233).
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In conclusion, for a movie to be complete, the actors must extensively use the tools of craft for acting. In his role in the movie Sweet Smell of Success, Burt uses tools such as presentational acting, emotional life, physical and verbal actions, and secondary activities. However, all of these tools share a common similarity – they depict Burt’s cruelty, ambitions, and selfish desire. He does not want Martin, an upcoming musician, to marry his sister. He uses trickery to force Falco to break this affair. At the end, Susan realizes of her brother’s plan, and she walks out on him. In addition, the manner in which Burt treats his sister could be influenced by the way women were treated in the 1950s. They were expected to obey every order coming from men. Their roles were tied to submissiveness and inferiority; this is the same way that Burt wants to treat Susan. He expects her to obey his wish to stop to break her involvement to Martin.