Tony Curtis as Sidney Falco, unscrupulous publicity agent
New York City, Fall 1956
Film: Sweet Smell of Success
Release Date: June 27, 1957
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Costume Designer: Mary Grant
Happy birthday to Tony Curtis, born 93 years ago today on June 3, 1925. The actor will always hold a special place for me as one of my earliest brushes with a known celebrity.
It occurred in the summer of 1998, during a vacation with my family to Las Vegas. We were approaching the exit to the MGM Grand as we came face-to-face with another entourage striding through the entrance. Flanked by two tall, voluptuous blondes at the front of the formation was a tuxedoed man with messy gray hair, considerably energetic for his age.
“That was Tony Curtis!” my family began murmuring to each other. Being only 9 years old at the time, I was concerned about feeling left out of the gossip until my grandma leaned in and explained to me that this was “Josephine” from Some Like It Hot, one of our favorite movies to watch together at the time.
Some Like It Hot will always have a place on my personal cinematic Mount Rushmore, but my favorite Tony Curtis performance is likely in Alexander Mackendrick’s atmospheric 1957 noir Sweet Smell of Success. Curtis stars as a Manhattan publicity agent oozing with opportunistic sleaze.
The Manhattan-born Curtis tapped into his Gemini side to convincingly ease in and out of all aspects of Falco’s cutthroat ambition, from the slick and wily New York City publicist to a subservient PR flack desperate to get in good with powerful columnist J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster), who admires Falco’s grit: “I’d hate to take a bite outta you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”
What’d He Wear?
Over the course of Sweet Smell of Success, Sidney Falco wears two suits: one for daytime, one at night. As the film begins at dusk, he is just ending his day in the former suit, which appears to be made from a medium-colored self-striped flannel suiting.
The single-breasted suit jacket exemplifies fashion trends of the mid-to-late 1950s with its wide, padded shoulders and full cut. The notch lapels roll over the top of the 3-roll-2 button front, with the second button perfectly meeting the trousers at Curtis’ waist and the third button exactly in line with the top of the straight hip pocket flaps. The jacket also has a welted breast pocket, three-button cuffs, and a short back vent.
With their high rise, double reverse pleats, and full fit through the legs, Falco’s suit trousers are also typical of the era. These trousers have pockets placed straight down along each side seam and jetted back pockets that each close through a button. The long rise of the trousers means a long, straight fly that closes with a zipper. The back of the waistband is split with a shallow vent, and the bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs).
Unlike the side-adjusted trousers of his dark pinstripe suit, these trousers have belt loops. However, Sidney Falco wears neither belt nor braces, instead relying on the proper fit of the trousers to keep him from an embarrassing situation.
Half a century after it was developed for sporting pursuits, the button-down collar had officially gained acceptance with business suits in most parts of 1950s America. The button-down shirt is Sidney Falco’s preference with his daytime business suit, sporting a light hairline-striped cotton shirt with a long button-down collar with considerable spread. This shirt also has a front placket and two-button rounded cuffs, all fastening with mother-of-pearl buttons.
Sidney wears a slim dark tie with a subtle tonal texture of self-squares. This appears to be the same tie that he also wears with his dark pinstripe suit.
Sidney wears a pair of dark leather derby shoes with dark dress socks.
As Sidney evidently has no qualms about leaving the door open while he changes his clothes with his secretary in the next room, both she and we see that he eschews undershirts but – thankfully – does wear undershorts.
Sidney’s watch has a round metal case and a light-colored dial and is worn on his left wrist with a leather strap.
How to Get the Look
Sidney Falco makes the most of a wardrobe of two suits: this self-striped flannel suit for daytime business and a darker pinstripe suit for the much different type of business that happens after dusk.
- Medium-colored self-striped flannel suit:
- Single-breasted 3/2-roll suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and short back vent
- Double reverse-pleated high-rise trousers with belt loops, straight side pockets, jetted button-through back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Light hairline-striped cotton shirt with button-down collar, front placket, and 2-button rounded cuffs
- Dark tonal square-textured slim tie
- Dark leather derby shoes
- Dark dress socks
- Round-cased wristwatch with a light dial and leather strap
- White cotton boxer shorts
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Watch me run a 50-yard dash with my legs cut off!