In Sweet Smell of Success (1957), press agent Sidney assures the unimpressed Evans that he will provide Temple with proper publicity build for his performance:

Temple: Al makes all the deals, doc. I can't —

Sidney: I don't like a fella that's quick with his hands. You know, Temple, you've been three passes behind for the last 20 years.

What does "quick with his hands" mean?

  • Metaphor: dextrous in business dealings. Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 10:13

1 Answer 1


The first meaning is the literal "deft, agile" in the domain of handiwork, whether it's dealing cards or dribbling a basketball or turning a Rubik's cube.

But the secondary meaning, and the one surely intended here, is that such a person is capable of sleight of hand — think of a shyster running a shell game. Their quickness means they can get away with a bit of cheating or deception or misdirection. If they shuffle a figurative deck of cards, you don't know whether they slipped in a joker or strategically placed the ace.

Without context, I read the rest of Sidney's line as suggesting that Al has been cheating Temple in exactly this way throughout the 20 years that he's been "making all the deals".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .