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"The Hustler" (1961), Directed and Produced by Robert Rossen, Starring Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, and George C. Scott


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I got the notion to start re-watching "The Hustler" today because I saw a couple excerpts from "The Color of Money," the supposed "sequel" and absolute disappointment to The Hustler - the two movies shouldn't be mentioned in the same review because The Hustler is a classic; The Color of Money is lame - I remember a friend of mine saying - when it was out in the theaters in 1986, "This could have been so good, and it was such a disappointment," and I could not agree more. Tom Cruise was an embarrassment in his role, and Paul Newman played a weak character, running on fumes, when he should have played a strong mentor, running on sagesse and wisdom.

The Hustler is the opposite of a "chick flick" - it's a guy's movie, and a darned good one were it not for too much lag with the scenes between Paul Newman and Piper Laurie in the middle. What a fascinating premise - a young, cocky pool shark from Oakland, California travels the country in search of Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) only to find out what it means to "win" in a high-stakes pool game, with George C. Scott lurking, and making his true entrance later in the film. What a fantastic cast this was.

Forget The Color of Money; this post is about The Hustler, and what a terrific movie and cast it was. You could say both that it was a "pool movie," and that it was a drama cloaked as a "pool movie," although when the rematch occurs, all drama take a backseat to pure, hardcore pool.

I'm not going to go into much more detail because if you haven't seen it, you should, and if you have, I'd love to hear what you think. What an acting career Paul Newman has had - stretching in this genre alone from Jackie Gleason to Tom Cruise.

"The Hustler" - a classic from 1961. Nine Academy Award Nominations, with two wins. A wonderful, entertaining film on multiple levels.

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The movie had such a dark seedy feel to it and it struck me how there were long tense periods without dialogue-- all you hear are the clicking of billiards balls. Great flick.

I always thought that Minnesota Fats was the real nickname of a player who was around BEFORE the movie, but it was the nickname Rudolph Wanderone (it's an interesting read) took AFTER the movie, though he claimed the movie was based on him. The Wikipedia article mentions that he managed a pool hall in Anacostia during the great depression. I have strong memories of watching Fats shoot it out with Willie Moscone on (what in the?) Wide World of Sports when I was a kid.

I'm a bit of a shark myself, so if you have a few grand lying around, hit me up for a game of 9-ball.

I can't say Wide World of Sports without throwing in Slim Pickens's line from Blazing Saddles.

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I always thought that Minnesota Fats was the real nickname of a player who was around BEFORE the movie, but it was the nickname Rudolph Wanderone (it's an interesting read) took AFTER the movie, though he claimed the movie was based on him. The Wikipedia article mentions that he managed a pool hall in Anacostia during the great depression. I have strong memories of watching Fats shoot it out with Willie Moscone on (what in the?) Wide World of Sports when I was a kid.

I'm a bit of a shark myself, so if you have a few grand lying around, hit me up for a game of 9-ball.

I thought the same thing as you did until just today -  I had no idea that Wanderone renamed himself after the movie.

Willie Mosconi was in the film - he was the one who held the money during the first match between Felsen and Fats - Gleason even calls him by name. Also, he was the consultant for Paul Newman, who had no pool skill at all coming into the film.

And the bartender in the scene where Felsen gets "taken behind the translucent window," well, you can read it for yourself:

"25 Things You Might Now Know About 'The Hustler'" by Gary Susman on news.moviefone.com

I'll take you up on that 9-ball challenge. (This is a true story involving more luck than skill - I once won three games of 9-ball without my opponent having a shot: I sank the 9 in game #1, then hit it in off the break in games #2 and #3. I know it's not supposed to happen, but I swear I could make the 9 ball roll towards the right-center pocket off the break, on a fairly consistent basis (place the cue ball several inches to the right of center, hit the one ball slightly to the left of center, top-left spin - the 9 ball popped out towards the side pocket almost every time.)) And then there was Win or Suck.

Don't let the garbled film throw you off; it resolves after a time. You're welcome. :)

(Does anyone think Mosconi's first two nine-ball losses were thrown for television? He doesn't make those mistakes, and I don't care if he hasn't played in twenty years. I can hear it now: "... and you're going to have to keep him in the match, Willie.")

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On 2/25/2015 at 11:14 AM, Al Dente said:

Just  a bar table amateur, but what amazing luck!

http://youtu.be/TRk8AWUY_Ow

You know, this reminds me of a game of darts I played at my friend Curtis's house one night. I through a triple-bulls-eye (a once in a hundred shot for me), he stood about 20 feet away from the dartboard off to the side (about a 30-degree angle), and casually looked me in the eye, and through a *double bulls eye* - this was from almost across the room. I shrugged my shoulders, and through another triple bulls-eye. 

There were three darts sitting there on the board - and we played regulation, competition darts, and this was all a once-in-a-lifetime, bullshit piece of luck by *both* of us, except that it happened, it actually happened. 

Curtis, please sign up, and verify this.- I swear to God it's true. There were two triples, and a double thrown from twice-as-far away at a ridiculous angle. We just couldn't believe it.

PS - I never admitted it then, but he was better than me. 

In pool too. :( But I was close, I swear I was. God I hated losing to him, and I still do.

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1 hour ago, DonRocks said:

You know, this reminds me of a game of darts I played at my friend Curtis's house one night. I through a triple-bulls-eye (a once in a hundred shot for me), he stood about 20 feet away from the dartboard off to the side (about a 30-degree angle), and casually looked me in the eye, and through a *double bulls eye* - this was from almost across the room. I shrugged my shoulders, and through another triple bulls-eye. 

There were three darts sitting there on the board - and we played regulation, competition darts, and this was all a once-in-a-lifetime, bullshit piece of luck by *both* of us, except that it happened, it actually happened. 

Curtis, please sign up, and verify this.- I swear to God it's true. There were two triples, and a double thrown from twice-as-far away at a ridiculous angle. We just couldn't believe it.

PS - I never admitted it then, but he was better than me. 

In pool too. :( But I was close, I swear I was. God I hated losing to him, and I still do.

Yes, I can confirm that I do have a vague memory of this alignment of stars. But a couple clarifications:

1. Regarding the bulls eye, the outer bulls eye (25 points in darts) is usually just referred to as the "outer" or "single" bulls eye, whereas the inner (worth 50 points) is either "inner" or "double". So, when you say double, I think you mean single -- and when you say triple, I think you mean double. Anyway, it really was one of those ridiculous moments where you couldn't believe what just happened.

2. As a very uneven player at both darts and pool, I can say that you're being too generous -- and the truth is that either of us might be "better than" the other on any given occasion. Part of what made it so fun is that our winning streaks never lasted too long!  :-)

Thanks for the memory, my friend!!

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20 hours ago, Curtis said:

1. Regarding the bulls eye, the outer bulls eye (25 points in darts) is usually just referred to as the "outer" or "single" bulls eye, whereas the inner (worth 50 points) is either "inner" or "double". So, when you say double, I think you mean single -- and when you say triple, I think you mean double. Anyway, it really was one of those ridiculous moments where you couldn't believe what just happened.

Right - this shows how long it has been since I've played any serious darts - in fact, the last time, I believe, was with Curtis, the former lead guitarist of Only After Dark (was that the name of your band?), and Gary Taylor, the former drummer from Tank.

Limited talent, but an imposing stage presence at 6'6".

 

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