Author Topic: The Hustler (1961)  (Read 3777 times)

Offline Antares

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The Hustler (1961)
« on: June 23, 2010, 03:08:35 AM »
The Hustler





Year: 1961
Film Studio: Twentieth Century Fox, Rossen Films
Genre: Drama, Classic
Length: 135 Min.

Director
Robert Rossen (1908)

Writing
Sidney Carroll (1913)...Screenplay
Robert Rossen (1908)...Screenplay
Walter Tevis (1928)...Novel

Producer
Robert Rossen (1908)

Cinematographer
Eugen Schüfftan (1893)

Music
Kenyon Hopkins (1912)...Composer

Stars
Paul Newman (1925) as Eddie Felson
Jackie Gleason (1916) as Minnesota Fats
Piper Laurie (1932) as Sarah Packard
George C. Scott (1927) as Bert Gordon
Myron McCormick (1908) as Charlie Burns
Murray Hamilton (1923) as Findley
Michael Constantine (1927) as Big John
Stefan Gierasch (1926) as Preacher

Review
       Throughout the history of the Academy Awards, there have been moments of sheer stupidity on the part of the voting members. One such year was 1962. In what could be considered a rather weak field of nominated films, you would think that a strong character driven film such as The Hustler would have swept the honors. Looking at its competition that year, Fanny, Jugdment at Nuremburg, The Guns of Navarone and West Side Story, it should have been a foregone conclusion. But I’ve always felt that the voting members were not keen on the changes taking place in Hollywood at the time. The rising influence of independent production companies and film makers had alienated those members who had been raised in the studio system, and many chose the much safer studio film, West Side Story.
   
       Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) is a brash and buoyant young man with a skill. Eddie plays straight pool, and he’s one of the best. If he were alive today, he’d be playing professional pool in sanctioned tournaments all over the country, and always winning. But he lives in a time before the professional circuit and has to rely on his cunning and his charm, to find his quarry amongst the good to above average pool players that frequent the many pool halls that dot the country. Eddie is a hustler, a con-man who must setup his prey before striking the fatal blow. It’s a hard, fast and dangerous life, which requires quick wits and sharp skills. Slowly and methodically he has worked his way across the country, building his stake with the hopes of bagging the ultimate quarry, a match against the best, Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason).
   
       This is where the film opens as Eddie awaits the arrival of Minnesota Fats at Ames Billiard Hall. In the beginning, the locals warn Eddie that Fats is the best, and that he shouldn’t waste his time, as Fats has chewed up and spit out all kinds of usurpers to the throne of best pool player alive. But Eddie will have none of it, and he’s determined to knock the king off his exalted throne. At first, that is exactly what appears to be taking place, as Eddie cruises through the night winning game after game. But Eddie allows Fats to decide when the match is over, and Fats’ bankroll is backed by Bert Gordon (George C. Scott), a professional gambler who has sized up Eddie and determines that he’s a loser and doesn’t have the staying power to keep up with Fats in the long run. As the two reach their 25th straight hour of playing, Eddie is spent, not only physically, but financially too. Eddie is left in a disheveled heap, discarded amongst the other pretenders for the throne.
   
       Virtually broke, he leaves town to start over and regain enough money to try again. At a bus station he meets Sarah (Piper Laurie), a lonely, troubled writer who has also fallen on hard times. Sarah will give Eddie something he has never known, love and stability, although at the time, Eddie doesn’t quite realize it. After hustling games around town, Eddie hustles a group of thugs in a bar and pays the ultimate price for a pool shark. They break his thumbs. Unable to ply his vocation until he is healed, he relies on Sarah’s hospitality to see him through. Prior to his accident, he ran into Bert Gordon, who not only tells him why he lost, but decides that Eddie has the talent to make him some money. But Bert’s price is too high, and Eddie declines. After the accident, Eddie has a change of heart and he, Bert and Sarah depart for Derby week in Louisville. It is in Louisville that Eddie’s life will forever be altered by a sacrifice made by Sarah. It is she who will redeem him and help him, by paying a rather steep price, so that Eddie’s eyes will be opened to the fact he’s being used by the life-sucking parasite that Bert is and will always be.
   
       As I mentioned earlier, the Academy was way off base the year The Hustler was nominated. The performances by Newman, Scott and Laurie were all deserving of Oscars that year. The screenplay and direction were both better than the films that took home the honors. The only consolation would be a win for Best Black and White Cinematography. Probably the saddest thing associated with the film is that you would think that Piper Laurie’s career would have taken off after appearing in such a great film, yet she virtually disappeared overnight. It would be another sixteen years before she returned to the screen as the religiously zealot mother of Sissy Spacek in Carrie, another film which earned her a nomination from the Academy.


Review Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2010, 12:00:52 AM by Antares »

Offline Achim

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2010, 03:52:46 AM »
I always enjoyed watcing Piper Laurie in this role (hmmm, o.k., only seen this three times, really).

have you ever seen Martin Scrocese's film of the continuation of Eddie's story. While not as good of a film, it has beautiful pool table photography by Michael Ballhaus. Of course, if you don't like Tom Cruise, that film is not for you.

Offline Antares

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2010, 03:58:03 AM »
I saw it back in its original release. It was sort of meh.

northbloke

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2010, 04:06:36 AM »
I saw it back in its original release. It was sort of meh.
I hope you're talking about the Color of Money there.  ;)

Offline Antares

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2010, 04:08:24 AM »
I saw it back in its original release. It was sort of meh.
I hope you're talking about the Color of Money there.  ;)

I think that goes without saying, seeing as how I wrote the posted review. :headscratch:

northbloke

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2010, 04:18:49 AM »
"Sort of meh" could be worth 4 and a half stars  :-[  :laugh:

Offline Achim

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2010, 04:28:01 AM »
I thought The Color of Money´was fun in the cinema, but it surely looses on rewatching. I wouldn't say Meh, I'd probably give it a 3 and a half stars. I thought the ending was quite clever.

KinkyCyborg

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2010, 04:40:13 AM »
      This is where the film opens as Eddie awaits the arrival of Minnesota Fats at Ames Billiard Hall. In the beginning, the locals warn Eddie that Fats is the best, and that he shouldn’t waste his time, as Fats has chewed up and spit out all kinds of usurpers to the throne of best pool player alive. But Eddie will have none of it, and he’s determined to knock the king off his exalted throne. At first, that is exactly what appears to be taking place, as Eddie cruises through the night winning game after game. But Eddie allows Fats to decide when the match is over, and Fats’ bankroll is backed by Bert Gordon (George C. Scott), a professional gambler who has sized up Eddie and determines that he’s a loser and doesn’t have the staying power to keep up with Fats in the long run. As the two reach their 25th straight hour of playing, Eddie is spent, not only physically, but financially too. Eddie is left in a disheveled heap, discarded amongst the other pretenders for the throne.

Great movie and I loved that grudge match. It was compelling to watch Felson fall from his zenith of confidence to rock bottom and opposite that Minnesota Fats, patient and understanding, knowing full well how it was going to play out. The Color Of Money would have been better had Cruise been left out as he was mostly a distraction. Fortunately the right people were able to see beyond the distraction and Newman got the Best Actor nod.

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2010, 05:20:16 AM »
I can't remember if I saw this one or not.

Offline Antares

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2010, 05:53:02 PM »
The Color Of Money would have been better had Cruise been left out as he was mostly a distraction.

Wholeheartedly agree.

Plus, at times, I felt that Scorsese fell into his usually tendency to focus on how the film looked as opposed to how well the screenplay was gelling. He's been notorious for that throughout most of his career.

Najemikon

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2010, 07:48:02 PM »
Well said. I like his films, a lot, but I don't get how he's given a free ride by most critics. I've heard him called "the most important American director" and I'm not sure why...

northbloke

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2010, 08:56:36 PM »
I've heard him called "the most important American director" and I'm not sure why...
I know, everyone knows that's actually Tarantino!  :tomato: :hysterical: :devil:

Najemikon

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2010, 09:30:17 PM »
I've heard him called "the most important American director" and I'm not sure why...
I know, everyone knows that's actually Tarantino!  :tomato: :hysterical: :devil:

Oh, shiiii... STATIONS EVERYONE! INCOMING! :shutup:

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2010, 09:37:57 PM »
Uh oh

Offline Jimmy

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Re: The Hustler (1961)
« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2010, 10:10:36 PM »
I know, everyone knows that's actually Tarantino!  :tomato: :hysterical: :devil:
That would explain why almost nothing original is made in the USA since at least 15 years :hmmmm: