As reported by Army Archerd in Daily Variety, playwright John Guare is working on the libretto of a musical version of the 1957 film, The Sweet Smell Of Success. The musical, being eyed for Broadway, will be produced by Livent, in association with David Brown and Ernest Lehman.
No time frame has been set.
Lehman wrote the original novella that was published in Cosmopolitan magazine when David Brown was editor there. (Higher-up editors at the mag balked at the word "smell" and changed the story's title to "Tell Me About It Tomorrow" for publication.) Lehman and Clifford Odets collaborated on the screenplay for the film, which starred Burt Lancaster as a vicious entertainment columnist and Tony Curtis as a sniveling, sycophantic press agent. (Columnist Walter Winchell served as the model for the lead character.)
No composer is yet slated for the project, though Variety reports, and producer Brown confirmed to Playbill On-Line, that "Marvin Hamlisch is rumored" as the composer. Hamlisch's credits include Smile They're Playing Our Song and the smash hit A Chorus Line.
Guare smelled success with his first musical, NY Shakespeare Festival's Two Gentlemen Of Verona for which he wrote the lyrics and musical adaptation, and won the 1971 Tony. Guare's plays include Six Degrees of Separation and The House Of Blue Leaves. Brown told Playbill On-Line (Sept.4) that a musical version of Success has been his idea for years. "I produced, with Louis Allen, Tru on Broadway, which starred Bobby Morse. When he went into Toronto's Show Boat, Morse told me, `look at what Garth [Drabinsky, of Livent] is doing, the extraordinary nature of this production!' It was spectacular."
Continued Brown, "I had acquired the rights to Lehman's novella some months back and negotiated for the rights to the screenplay with MGM. Then I sent Drabinsky a casette of the movie and he said, "David get your ass up here, let's talk about this!' So I'm the instigator."
Asked why Success has a librettist but no composer, Brown said, "Garth generally wants the story first -- that's how it happened on Ragtime, too -- then the composer-director-lyricist. I'm guessing the elements might be in place early next year. Lehman and I were journalists at the time, so John [Guare] spoke at length with us and became totally immersed in the texture of the period. He's been working on the piece for several months and the libretto is essentially ready."
Brown says the story will remain set in the early 1950s, as was the book and movie. "But the relevance is there because now, in the paparazzi frenzy and obsession of the public with the power and the press, it seems uniquely timely. It's about power and the corruption of power."