A movie full of arsenic : evolving reception and canon formation through Sweet smell of success




Margolis, Katrina Gray

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This thesis examines how and why a film’s reception can change over time, focusing on the case study of Hecht-Hill-Lancaster’s Sweet Smell of Success (1957). In investigating the film’s production, this project aims to demonstrate the shared and dispersed authorship of the film. Utilizing trade journals, popular press, archival materials, and biographies and memoirs, this project traces the reception of the film from its initial release to the present, focusing on the period of the Hollywood Renaissance when Sweet Smell of Success was re-evaluated by audiences. To this end, the project additionally investigates the notion of canon, interrogating how canons are made and the ways in which they evolve. Drawing from work in production studies and reception studies, this project aims to understand the importance of historical context and resonance in a film’s cultural placement, and the implications this has on film canonization.


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