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Sweet Smell of Sucess
January 22, 2011 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Basically, the big hurdle on this title was a clause in the contracts stating that the likenesses of both Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster MUST appear, and both MUST be the same size. And given the power imbalance between the two characters in the film, the idea of having the two of them just standing there, on equal footing with each other, felt really wrong… Eric Skillman on working with artist Sean Philips on the cover for the Criterion edition of Sweet Smell of Sucess.
posted by Artw (21 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wonderful find Artw, thank you!
posted by cavalier at 3:57 PM on January 22, 2011


Pretty awesome, thanks. Everyone should see this movie, it is so fabulous.
(the following is semi-derail) J.J.'s line when he shakes the cop's hand, "You trying to get me to say uncle?" has entered my vernacular. So awesome to have a handy put-down for those people that think hand shaking is a sizing-up.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 3:58 PM on January 22, 2011


Also:
Cat's in the bag, bag's in the river.
just wanted to say that
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 3:59 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite films. As nice as that painting/illustration is, I don't think it at all captures anything to do with the film--not the tone, the atmosphere, the power dynamic, nothing. It's unfortunate that the licensee hogtied the designers. Would have been nice to see how compelling a cover Criterion could have made without ridiculous political strictures.
posted by dobbs at 4:01 PM on January 22, 2011


Great movie. Bad cover.

Beyond the dumb restrictions put on the designer, I think it's a big mistake to have done such a literal, illustrative approach in color. Part of the film's personality is that gorgeous on-location black-and-white photography. It's practically another star in the play. That color illustration just feels like the artist never actually watched the film.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:12 PM on January 22, 2011


Yeah, just wanted to say that as someone who knows nothing about this movie, I still know nothing about this movie after seeing the cover. There's a guy, and it's probably the 50's, and it's about business? Maybe a newspaper? I dunno.

I don't even really get the impression that there are two major characters in this movie, though having been told that there are I'm assuming the dude on the poster in the background has a big role to play.

I have a hard time figuring out what's going on here, my eyes have nowhere to rest, there don't seem to be any strong focal points -- not even the title, which is, yeah, bright yellow but it's also sitting on a sea of even brighter red.

I just don't know what's going on here, honestly.
posted by Scientist at 4:13 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Maybe it works better if you've already seen the film, and love it, and are just buying it because it's the Criterion Edition and you've always wanted to own a copy. But in that case, honestly, the cover doesn't have a whole lot of work to do.)
posted by Scientist at 4:15 PM on January 22, 2011


And sorry to post so much, but: "Lancaster's character basically towers over Tony Curtis in every way… we get Tony Curtis in the foreground and Burt Lancaster's face on the side of the truck in the background…."

Pretty much sums up my problem with the composition of this cover.
posted by Scientist at 4:18 PM on January 22, 2011


Nice that they were careful to have Sidney in a suit instead of an overcoat, since J.J. noticing that Sidney avoids wearing one to save on coat check tips is one of the movie's subtler brilliances.
posted by nicwolff at 4:19 PM on January 22, 2011


It's not one of the lines everyone quotes. But the cop's line to Sidney - "Come here so I can chastise you." - is something I often say to one of my cats before making him endure a cuddle.

Thanks for the post.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:20 PM on January 22, 2011


Someone mentions it in the comments of the linked article, but to me, this cover is more evocative of the movie. It subtly captures the relationship between Curtis and Lancaster's characters in the film (with Curtis practically whispering in his ear) and the building in the background adding a bit of drama and foreshadowing.
posted by drezdn at 4:25 PM on January 22, 2011


amazing art, Art. and to Criterion, this utterly sells the disc.
posted by mwhybark at 4:45 PM on January 22, 2011


Oh, I really like this one: Sean Philips Criterion cover for A Blast of Silence
posted by Artw at 5:20 PM on January 22, 2011


And, with no Sean Philips at all, the cover design for one of my favourite films, Night of the hunter.

Midget on a pony!
posted by Artw at 5:24 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone mentions it in the comments of the linked article, but to me, this cover is more evocative of the movie.

Is the movie very boring, then?

I like the illustration for the new cover quite a bit, and I'm glad that article shows some of the progress work to indicate that Eric Skillman tried other typefaces before just using a Saul Bass treatment.
posted by girih knot at 5:27 PM on January 22, 2011


Yeah, I'm not really seeing anything special in that Vintage Classics cover - looks pasted together and kind of dull.
posted by Artw at 5:35 PM on January 22, 2011


The thing this cover reminds me of most is this poster, which has nothing to do with Sweet Smell.
posted by dobbs at 5:57 PM on January 22, 2011


So, if you're a comic book nerd like myself, you will already be familiar with Sean Philips for his work with Ed Brubaker on Incognito, Criminal and (by far my favorite) Sleeper. His noir-ish, spotted blacks style is really attractive and I have tried to ape it in my own artwork. How he covers so much of it in black while still conveying so much detail to the viewer amazes me. Though their styles are very different I think he and Darwyn Cooke best capture that noir sensibility on the comics page. End comic-nerd wank.
posted by runcibleshaw at 6:33 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cat's in the bag, bag's in the river.

Okay, I have got to see this, now -- I've been singing along with the Tomahawk song for 6 years, with no idea where it came from.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:50 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's wrong to suggest this but... the whole thing's on Youtube if you search ssos.

Also, those of you who've seen Diner and can recall there was a character walking around who only spoke in movie quotes... every one of those lines was from this film.
posted by dobbs at 8:19 PM on January 22, 2011


Thanks, Artw! I do love to see the sausage making behind the designs.

Here's my quick attempt at a 'same-size' cover design. Mostly because I just love TC's expression here. :)
posted by taz at 1:35 AM on January 23, 2011


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