Combustible Celluloid
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With: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, Myron McCormick, Murray Hamilton, Michael Constantine, Stefan Gierasch, Clifford A. Pellow, Jake LaMotta, Gordon B. Clarke, Alexander Rose, Carolyn Coates, Carl York, Vincent Gardenia
Written by: Sidney Carroll, Robert Rossen, based on a novel by Walter S. Tevis
Directed by: Robert Rossen
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 134
Date: 25/09/1961

The Hustler (1961)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Dirty Pool

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This is one of Newman's very best films, if not his best, even if it's relentlessly depressing. Newman is captivating as 'Fast Eddie' Felson, a cocky, swaggering young pool hustler, who takes on the legendary Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason, in an astonishingly subtle, powerful performance) in an all-night pool match.

Most of the film takes place as he recovers from two broken thumbs, aided by crippled alcoholic Sarah (Piper Laurie), learning lessons about himself and preparing for the inevitable rematch. It's tough going, but director Robert Rossen does miraculous things with his black-and-white widescreen frame, generally empty, and with the passage of time.

The film received nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and acting nods for Newman, Gleason, Laurie, and George C. Scott. It received two, for the black-and-white cinematography by Eugen Schufftan, and the art direction. In 1986, of course, Martin Scorsese directed the sequel, The Color of Money, and Newman finally won an Oscar.

In 2011, Fox released a deluxe Blu-Ray Book edition with a commentary track, several featurettes (including a few on the art of pool hustling and trick shots), plus the A&E Biography Paul Newman episode.

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