1001 Flicks

Regularly updated blog charting the most important films of the last 104 years.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

380. The Hustler (1961)

Directed by Rober Rossen


Paul Newman is a hustler. Not that kind of hustler, one who uses his rod and balls to make money. A pool hustler. And he really wants to beat Jackie Gleason... whatever it takes, and it takes quite a bit.


How can you make a 2 hour 15 minute film about shooting pool exciting? Well Rossen managed to do it with The Hustler. Of course the film goes way beyond pool playing, in fact it is about life and growing up, how to succeed by getting your focus on what is actually important in life.

In this case that realisation might come quite late in the film, and too late to salvage the Hustler's loved one, but it does come. And through it all the performances are astounding. Paul Newman is his beautiful self and plays Fast Eddie like he was born to do it, George C. Scott plays a bastard as only he can play them, and Piper Laurie feels genuinely damaged throughout.

If this was all there was to it, a thoughtful plot and great acting, it would already be worth watching, but there is also beautiful direction and cinematography, the black and white being more and more used as an artistic option rather than a technical imperative, and the great wide cinemascope shots being beautiful to look at, all complemented by exacting detail in the locations and extras. Great film.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Rossen filmed The Hustler over six weeks, entirely in New York City. Much of the action was filmed at two now-defunct pool halls, McGirr's and Ames Billiard Academy. Other shooting locations included a townhouse on East 82nd Street, which served as the Louisville home of Murray Hamilton's character Findley, and the Manhattan Greyhound bus terminal. The film crew built a dining area that was so realistic that confused passengers sat there and waited to place their orders. Willie Mosconi served as technical advisor on the film and shot a number of the trick shots in place of the actors (except for Gleason whose shots were his own and filmed in wide-angle to show the actor and the shot in the same frames). Rossen, in pursuit of the style he termed "neo-neo-realistic",hired actual street thugs, enrolled them in the Screen Actors Guild and used them as extras.

Fast Eddie talks about how he feels when playing pool:


  • At 4:47 PM, Blogger Sycorax Pine said…

    This turned out to be one of my favorites of the 1001 list so far - I need to return to it again soon.


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