The Hustler (1961)
Paul Newman as Eddie Felson
Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats
George C Scott as Bert Gordon
Piper Laurie as Sarah Packard
Robert Rossen’s neo-classic “The Hustler” is one of those crucial pieces of cinematic history that transcends being just a pool movie adored by Paul Newman fans. It showcases a troupe of Oscar-nominated performances from the quintessential Newman as well as George C. Scott, Jackie Gleason and Piper Laurie as the troubled Sarah Packard. But it further highlights the condition of human neurosis and how it plays into every egotistical moment in the lives of two pool sharks from opposite sides of the tracks.
When “Fast” Eddie Felson rambles into New York by way of California, his pool hustling talents win him his rough-and-tumble livelihood . Following a lengthy challenge with Minnesota Fats (Gleason) in which Eddie initially hits a winning streak (and later loses due to his self-destructive drinking and cocksure attitude), the busted-up player tries to regain his touch, along with his soul, by working his way back up the ladder in order to face Fats one more time.
Along the way, realizing there’s limitations to his self-loathing ambition (an allusion to the director’s experience with the Hollywood Blacklist in the ’50s), Eddie’s girlfriend succumbs to the pressures in the life of the hustler. Knowing that sometimes winning means losing, Eddie takes his newfound game back to Fats’ corner in a chance for the ultimate redemption.
The cinematography couldn’t be more amazing with countless seconds drudging down as the stakes go up. Onlookers watch as the two pool titans duke it out for superiority’s sake in the film’s signature final scene, one grueling shot after another. Willie Mosconi was the techincal advisor. Rossen’s prolific style and story helped make Newman a household name among leading men in 1961. And it made Gleason into one of the sport’s poster boys at pool halls and bars across America.
Quotes From The Hustler
Fast Eddie: Fat man, you shoot a great game of pool.
Minnesota Fats: So do you, Fast Eddie.
Minnesota Fats: Do you like to gamble, Eddie? Gamble money on pool games?
Fast Eddie: I don’t rattle, kid. But just for that I’m gonna beat you flat.
Fast Eddie: No bar, no pinball machines, no bowling alleys, just pool, nothing else, this is Ames mister”