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The Hustler Movie Review

This movie is based off of Walter Tevis’ 1959 novel by the same name. While watching this movie, you’ll be introduced to several main characters that you’ll easily be able to connect with. Eddie Felson (Played by Paul Newman), Minnesota Falls (Played by Jackie Gleason), Sarah Packard (Played by Piper Laurie, and Bert Gordon (Played by George C. Scott) are just some of the characters you’ll meet.

The story line is complex yet totally relatable. The main character, Eddie Felson, is a lovable hustler that travels across the country, hustling people to make a living. Early on he runs into the legendary Minnesota falls who is the only man that Fast Eddie can’t beat at pool. Frustrated and discouraged, Eddie runs away from his old lifestyle and meets the lovely Sarah Packard. They have an interesting relationship, to say the least, and Sarah is less than thrilled when Eddie is swept back into the world of hustling with Bert Gordon as his sponsor. Eddie gets one more chance to take down Minnesota Falls, but is winning worth what it will cost him in the long run? You’ll have to keep reading to find out!

The Hustler Movie

About the Movie

Director Robert Rossen

Editor Dede Allen

Genre American Drama

Length 2 hours, 15 minutes

Music Kenyon Hopkins

Script Writers Sidney Carroll and Robert Rossen

Release Year 1961

The Cast

Paul Newman as Eddie Felson

Since this movie was released, Paul Newman has gone on to star in several other films including Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and The Sting (1973). In his latter years, he was most famous for being the voice of Doc Hudson for the lovable children’s movie, Cars (2006). Paul Newman has won a plethora of awards over the course of his career including several Golden Globe awards (1957, 1969, 2006), an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role (1986), and many more. Newman passed away in 2008 and he’s definitely greatly missed from his wide array of fans.

Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats

Jackie Gleason is both an actor and a comedian. He’s most famous for his contribution to The Mike Douglas Show (1961) and his roles in Gigot (1962), How Do I Love Thee? (1970), Nothing in Common (1986), and others as well. Above anything else he was most recognized for his role in The Hustler, as he was nominated for an Oscar for the Best Actor in a Supporting Role (1961) and won the Golden Laurel award for Top Male Supporting Performance (1961). Gleason spent his latter years doing stand-up comedy until he passed away in 1987 in his home in Florida.

Piper Laurie as Sarah Packard

Piper Laurie is most famous for her roles in Carrie (1976), The Faculty (1998), and Hesher (2010). Laurie has won a myriad of awards for her performances including an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress (1986) , Seattle International Film Fest award for Best Actress (1999), along with several nomination for Golden Globe awards. Even though Laurie is the sweet age of eighty-three, she still continues to pursue a career in acting and you can expect to see her on the latest season of Twin Peaks which will be released sometime in 2017.

George C. Scott as Bert Gordon

George C. Scott is best known for his roles in Dr. Strangelove (1964), Patton (1970), and The Changeling (1980). Over the course of his lifetime, George C. Scott has won 14 awards including a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor (1970 & 1997), an Oscar for The Best Actor in a Leading Role (1970 & 1971), along with several other prestigious awards. This former United States Marine passed away in 1999 at age 71.

Other Supporting Actors/Actresses

  • Michael Constantine as Big John
  • Murray Hamilton as Findley
  • Myron McCormick as Charlie Burns
  • Clifford A. Pellow as Turk

Brief Bio on Robert Rossen (Director)

Robert Rossen was born on March 16th, 1908 In New York City, New York. Rossen was the son of Jewish-Russian immigrants and spent the majority of his childhood living in Manhattan’s Lower East side. He attended New York University but never graduated and instead earned a living as a professional boxer until he had enough money to pursue a career as a writer/ director.

Rossen was a very talented man in his profession and is well-known for his work on The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), All the King’s Men (1949), and of course The Hustler (1961). He passed away on February 18th, 1966 in Los Angeles, California leaving behind his wife, Susan Siegal, and three children.

What is it Rated and Why

This film in particular is labeled as Not Rated, simply because of the time period in which it was produced. You won’t come across any nudity throughout the film, but there are a few occasions where it’s implied that two characters have sex. The language during this film is pretty mild, with only words such as damn, hell, or bastard being used. One thing that’s predominant throughout this film is an excessive use of alcohol and cigarettes by all of the main characters in almost every scene of the movie. For these reasons, if we were to give this film a rating by today’s standards, we would probably label it as a PG-13 movie.

Since this film is “not rated” we have given our own rating of

Summary of the Movie

At the start of this film, you’ll get to see Fast Eddie in action with his coach Charlie Burns while they are pretending to be travelling salesmen. In reality, they are travelling through Pittsburgh, going to bars and pool halls to hustle people out of all their money. After that scene cuts out, the two gentlemen enter Ames Pool Hall, where Minnesota Flats is known to play regularly. I love the subtle sign that reads, “No Gambling Allowed,” at the front desk and although it’s never mentioned, it does leave a powerful mention behind.

As soon as Eddie starts talking to the people in the pool hall, they immediately recognize him as the infamous Fast Eddie. Although he doesn’t get a chance to hustle anyone out of money that night, these men do tell him that Minnesota Fats will be there Friday night at 8 o’clock! Eddie claims that he’ll make over $10,000 when he plays against him, which everyone believes to be preposterous.

That Friday, Minnesota Flats agrees to play Fast Eddie for $200 a game in which Eddie has an excellent start. Actually he seems unbeatable and before he knows it, he’s up $18,000 but he won’t stop until Minnesota Fats says it’s over. They continue to play through the night and for over twenty-five hours straight. They play until Eddie loses all of the money that he had won prior, leaving him angry and broke.

Eddie decides to ditch his partner in the middle of the night and for awhile he lives out of a locker at the bus station. It’s at this bus station that Eddie is introduced to Sarah, a beautiful woman who has polio and loves to drink. Sarah is played by Piper Laurie, a perfect fit for this part. Eventually Eddie and Sarah start living together and have a very unhealthy and unstable relationship. Despite all the complications though, you can tell they truly do care for each other.

It doesn’t take long for Eddie’s old partner, Charlie, to creep back into his life. He begs Eddie to come on the road with him again but he refuses because the only person he cares to play is Minnesota Fats. Soon after, Bert Gordon approaches Eddie and tells him he watched his games against Minnesota Fats and is willing to pay for him to compete against him for a 75% cut. Eddie believes that amount is outrageous and refuses to take it.

In Eddie’s spare time, he goes to the local pool halls to practice his skills but this particular night was much different. He notices another young lad trying to hustle people out of their money and decides to teach this boy a lesson. Eddie plays against the boy and ends up causing him to lose all of his money. A few regulars at the bar take notice of his hustling skills and decide to break his thumbs in order to teach him a lesson about hustling. It’s hinted later in the film that Bert Gordon paid these men to cause harm to Eddie but we’ll never known for sure.

After his thumbs heal, Eddie decides to take Bert up on his previous offer. Eddie takes Sarah out for a fancy dinner and tells her that he’ll be on the road for awhile. Sarah doesn’t take this news very well and has an emotional breakdown, revealing to Eddie that she had lied about her past and that her father sends her money to avoid having a relationship with her. Sarah is broken inside and recognizing that, Eddie invites Sarah to come on the road with her.

On the road, Eddie is introduced to Findley, a millionaire who loves throwing lavish parties. Findley invites Bert, Eddie, and Sarah to his party so that they can play pool after it’s finished. At the party, Bert makes advances towards Sarah and pushes her over, claiming she’s simply a clumsy drunk. This event foreshadows an upcoming, devastating event. Sarah lies down in a guest bedroom for awhile. When she awakes, she runs downstairs, interrupts their pool game, and tells Eddie that he needs to stop playing because Bert is using him and doesn’t have his best interests at heart.

Eddie, frustrated from losing several games beforehand, tells Sarah to leave him alone. He then continues playing, winning over $12,000 from Findley. Bert takes a cab home but Eddie decides to walk in order to clear his mind from the fight he had earlier with Sarah. This is where the story takes a turn for the worst, as Sarah decides to sleep with Bert and take her own life that night all before Eddie returns to the hotel.

He’s crushed when he sees her bloody body and through his pain, you can see his sincere love for her for the first time. Although the camera doesn’t show her after her death, you can see what an awful sight it must have been through Eddie’s sad eyes and distressed look. Paul Newman is an excellent actor and this is one of the most impressive scenes we’ve seen him accomplish.

Now Eddie is more determined than ever to take down Minnesota Fats. He scrimmages up all the money he can find and heads to Ames Pool Hall once more. This time, Eddie doesn’t lose plus Minnesota Fats admits to Eddie that he simply cannot beat him. Bert hears about what Eddie has done and marches down to the pool hall, claiming that he deserves at least 50% of his winnings. Eddie scoffs at Bert, telling him he would never pay him and that if he’s not careful he’ll come back and kill him. Eddie walks away will all of his money and no regrets.

Our Favorite Quotes from the Movie

Our Favorite Quote

You know, I got a hunch, fat man. I got a hunch it’s me from here on in. One ball, corner pocket. I mean, that ever happen to you? You know, all of a sudden you feel like you can’t miss? ‘Cause I dreamed about this game, fat man. I dreamed about this game every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it.”

– Eddie Felson

This quote is towards the middle of the movie when Eddie decides to give in to Bert and take up his sponsorship, even if it means giving up 75% of his profit. This conversation occurred soon after Eddie broke his thumbs and didn’t have much confidence.

Maybe I’m not such a high-class piece of property right now. And a 25% slice of something big is better than a 100% slice of nothing.”

– Eddie Felson

This quote is towards the middle of the movie when Eddie decides to give in to Bert and take up his sponsorship, even if it means giving up 75% of his profit. This conversation occurred soon after Eddie broke his thumbs and didn’t have much confidence.

You’re not a loser, Eddie, you’re a winner. Some men never get to feel that way about anything.”

– Sarah Packard

Bert was blatantly honest with Eddie and told him that he thought he was a natural born loser. Eddie was very distraught over his words and kept that at the forefront of his mind. He confides in Sarah about his thoughts on the subject and this was her comforting response. Many times throughout the story both Sarah and Eddie try to act as if they have a tough exterior and that nothing can bring them down, but during this conversation, you see their vulnerability.

Fat man, you shoot a great game of pool.”

– Eddie Felson

So do you, Fast Eddie.”

– Minnesota Fats

The last two lines of the movie, spoken by Fast Eddie and Minnesota Fats, were two very powerful lines. Although not many words were used, there was a great deal of emotion wrapped up in them which reveals their deep mutual respect for one another.

What Others are Saying

IMDb

“This is, without a doubt, the closest anything out of Hollywood ever came to touching the soul of a pool player.”

Rotten Tomatoes

“As The Hustler’s “Fast” Eddie Felson, Paul Newman created a classic antihero, charismatic but fundamentally flawed, and nobody’s role model.”

New York Times

“Under Robert Rossen’s strong direction, its ruthless and odorous account of one young hustler’s eventual emancipation is positive and alive. It crackles with credible passions. It comes briskly and brusquely to sharp points. It doesn’t dawdle with romantic nonsense, except in one brief unfortunate stretch.”

Films Site Movie Review

“The Hustler (1961) is the realistic adult story of a small-time, ambitious, struggling, self-destructive pool shark, commenting on winning/success and losing, life and love, loyalty, greed, self-respect, selling out and ultimate redemption.”

Slant Magazine

“In this way, there is no lonelier American movie than The Hustler, and no better a flawed hero than “Fast” Eddie Felson. Newman’s a force of energy on screen—a guy you should never love, but cannot help siding with.”

Awards & Accolades

The Hustler won two Oscars in 1962 for Best Cinematography and the Best Art Direction-Set Decoration for black and white films. On top of those, The Hustler, also won the BAFTA film award, the Golden Laurel Award, and the WGA Award for Best American Drama. They were also in the running for several other esteemed awards as well.

Our Rating and Recommendation

We are happy to give this movie a 4.8 of out 5 star rating, as it’s certainly a classic that will never be forgotten. To begin, the casting for this movie was phenomenal. Paul Newman’s portrayal of his character “Fast Eddie,” was so artistically done that it helped Paul Newman become the legendary movie star. The other main cast members including Piper Laurie, Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott were also all awarded for their roles in one way or another.

Newman’s “Fast Eddie,” is a surprisingly lovable character despite all of his unlovable character traits. He’s an arrogant hustler who not only is full of himself but has a one-track mind that makes it difficult for him to care about anything else. Despite these obvious faults, there’s something about his character that draws us in and makes us desire to see him achieve his goals.

It’s also easy to have compassion for Sarah Packard, the beautiful woman with Polio, an unloving family, and a drinking problem. Piper Laurie played her distraught character flawlessly. Although Minnesota Fats and Bert Gordon would be considered the antagonists in this movie, they were still skillfully mastered by both Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott.

The storyline throughout this film was also wonderfully crafted, thanks to the author of the book it’s based off of by Walter Tevis. You really get to be inside the mind of Fast Eddie, the hustler, and get a feel for what it would be like to be second best and how discouraging that would be. Of course, along life’s journey he falls in love and gains a new perspective about what really matters in life.

The ending to this movie is the definition of bittersweet. The whole movie was centered upon Eddie’s desire to take down Minnesota Fats and claim the title as being the best straight pool player around and he accomplishes just that. Unfortunately, along the way Sarah chooses to take her own life, making Eddie realize that his goals in life weren’t as important as he thought they were. Even though he does beat Minnesota Fats, all he wants is to be with Sarah again.

Throughout this film we can appreciate the authenticity they added by forcing Newman and Gleason to master the art of pool in order to make the pool scenes look more realistic. Yes, in almost every scene, they truly are making their own impressive shots. On the rare occasions that these two gentlemen couldn’t master a shot, Willie Mosconi, a U.S. billiard champion at the time, would step in and make the shot for them. Mosconi does make a quick appearance in the film as “Willie,” the man who holds the money for the boys in their first match.

This review wouldn’t be complete without giving credit to Dede Allen, the editor of this film, especially when it comes to the scenes where their shooting pool. She created a perfect rhythm for the pool games and gracefully mastered the movement of the balls, pool sticks, and the players to make you feel like you are witnessing them play in real life. All things considered, this is an amazing movie and is definitely worth your time!

Our Recommendation:

This is an amazing movie and is definitely worth your time