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December 30, 1990

Sweet Smell of Success (Showtime Wednesday at 10 a.m., Cinemax Thursday at 3:45 p.m.) After 33 years, this remains one of the most corrosive of American films, written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman from Lehman's short story. Best of all are the performances director Alexander Mackendrick got from Burt Lancaster as a megalomaniacal Broadway columnist, nakedly patterned on Walter Winchell, and especially from Tony Curtis as an ultra-ambitious press agent.

Chan Is Missing (Bravo Saturday at 2 p.m.) One level of Wayne Wang's refreshing, fast and funny 1982 debut feature can be taken as a sendup of the Charlie Chan stereotype and on another as a thoughtful comment on the quest for cultural identity. The missing Chan is an immigrant who's supposed to invest $2,000 with two San Francisco cabbies (Wood Moy, Marc Hayashi) eager to go into business for themselves.

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