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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Hustler (1961) - Starring Paul Newman - a huge hit, a modern classic

The Hustler (released in 1961) was a movie ostensibly about a pool game, about the efforts of a talented pool player to defeat the reigning pool champion, about the tribulations that he had to suffer in this process, including the losses. In reality, The Hustler is now defined as a movie defining the character of a person, the winning and losing that makes up the character. The movie is classified as a classic movie, continuing to rate positive reviews. The characters look like real characters, with their anguish, their weaknesses, their obsessions, and how they shrug off adversity in the face of an ambition. The movie also benefited the game of pool to a very high degree, since pool was declining in popularity for decades; but the movie had a big role to play in pushing the popularity of the game into reverse direction, making pool popular again. The movie is now compared with the later 'The Color of Money', but while the later movie is more smooth and polished, The Hustler is a much more raw look at human emotions, about what makes a person win or lose. The Hustler got a number of Oscar nominations, 9 in all, and won 2 (Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (Harry Horner and Gene Callahan) and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Eugen Sch├╝fftan)).
Newman was nominated for Best Actor role, but did not get the award, instead getting it decades later for a role that was a continuation of the movie, The Color of Money (with some critics calling the Oscar award as a recognition that he should have got the award for the Best Actor role for The Hustler).

The movie was based on the 1959 novel (of the same name) by author Walter Tavis, and the book was adapted by Sidney Carroll and Robert Rossen for the movie, with Rossen directing the movie. The main stars of the movie are Paul Newman as Eddie Felson, Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats, Piper Laurie as Sarah and George C. Scott as Bert.
The movie is the story of "Fast Eddie" Felson (Paul Newman), who is traveling with his friend Charlie (Myron McCormick) chasing "Minnesota Fats" (Jackie Gleason), a famous pool player. He meets Fats at Fats home town, and they agree to play for money. Eddie is ahead, but gets carried away and refuses to quit even when Charlie asks him to quit; then a professional gambler Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) is called over by Fats, and he diagnoses Eddie as a loser, without character; and sure enough, by the time that everything is through Eddie has lost everything except for $200.
Eddie meets an alcoholic girl, walking with a limp, Sarah Packard (portrayed pretty well by Piper Laurie); she refuses to take him in initially, but after they meet again and again, she lets him into the house. Eddie continues to hunger to challenge Fats again, and Charlie and Eddie have a face-off and then separation. And then Eddie ties up with Bert, who agrees to back Eddie in return for a 75% take from the returns. And then Eddie will challenge Fats again, but at what cost to Eddie ?

The Hustler (1961) - Starring Paul Newman - a huge hit, a modern classic

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