Sidney Falco, has weaseled his way into the 21 Club to talk with the powerful J.J. Hunsecker, a world renowned columnist. When Sidney arrives, Hunsecker is holding court with a Senator, a young actress named Ms. James and her manager.
SENATOR: Are you an actor Mr. Falco?
MS. JAMES: That’s just what I was thinking. Are you, Mr. Falco?
J.J. HUNSECKER: Well, how did you guess it Ms. James?
MS. JAMES: He’s so pretty, that’s how.
J.J. HUNSECKER: Mr. Falco, let it be said at once, is a man of 40 faces, not one – none too pretty, and all deceptive. You see that grin? That’s the, eh, that’s the Charming Street Urchin face. It’s part of his helpless act: he throws himself upon your mercy. He’s got a half-dozen faces for the ladies. But the one I like, the really cute one, is the quick, dependable chap. Nothing he won’t do for you in a pinch – so he says. Mr. Falco, whom I did not invite to sit at this table tonight, is a hungry press agent, and fully up to all the tricks of his very slimy trade.
[Pulls out an unlit cigarette and faces Falco]
Match me, Sidney.
SIDNEY FALCO: Not right this minute, J.J.
SENATOR: May I ask you a naive question, Mr. Falco? Exactly how does a press agent work?
JJ HUNSECKER: Well, answer the man, Sidney, he’s trying to take you off the hook.
SIDNEY FALCO: Well, you’ve just seen a good example of it, Senator. A press agent eats a columnist’s dirt and is expected to call it manna.
SENATOR: But don’t you help columnists by furnishing them with items?
SIDNEY FALCO: Sure, the columnists can’t do without us, except our good and great friend J.J. forgets to mention that. You see, we furnish him with items.
J.J. HUNSECKER: What, some cheap, gruesome gags?
SIDNEY FALCO: You print ‘em, don’t ya?
J.J. HUNSECKER: Yes, with your clients’ names attached. That’s the only reason the poor slobs pay you – to see their names in my column all over the world. Now, I make it out, you’re doing *me* a favor?… The day I can’t get along without a press agents’ handouts, I’ll close up shop and move to Alaska, lock, stock, and barrel.
– J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster), Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), screenplay by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, novella by Ernest Lehman
The Daily Dialogue theme for the week is exposition suggested by Dean Scott. Today’s suggestion by ArtHennessey.
Trivia [from Art]: “As a fun side note: Years later, Gordon Gekko and Budd Fox would have an important conversation at what would appear to be the very same table at 21 in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.”
Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary from Art: “This is a very early scene, and the first time we meet J.J. Hunsecker. The dialogue gives us the anatomy of the entertainment industry press game, along with the relationship of the two main characters. But the scene crackles with tension. The key, I think, is that the conversation between Hunsecker and Falco is played out in front of an audience – the Senator’s party.”