Friday, April 1, 2011
1973 - The Sting
The poll for the next year of review is now up, situated to the right of your screen. Coincidentally, the Joan Crawford version of Mildred Pierce is in the running.
Yesterday, I looked at the eventual Best Picture winner from 1973...
George Roy Hill
David S. Ward
Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, John Heffernan, Dana Elcar, Jack Kehoe, Dimitra Arliss, Robert Earl Jones
7 wins, including Best Picture, Best Director & Best Original Screenplay
During the Great Depression, small-time grifter Johnny Hooker (Redford) and his accomplice Luther (Jones) successfully con a gangster out of $11,000. Unbeknownst to them, their mark was a crony of Irish crime boss Doyle Lonnegan (Shaw). When Lonnegan has Luther killed, Hooker flees to an old friend of Luther's named Henry Gondorff (Newman), a big-time con artist who can teach Hooker how to pull off more lucrative scams. Together, they plan a high-stakes con of Lonnegan, which involves employing dozens of accomplices, constructing a fake betting parlor and painting half a Western Union office. As the sting progresses, Hooker must also avoid the trail of corrupt police Lieutenant Snyder (Durning) who Hooker earlier paid off with counterfeit cash.
The Sting is undeniably a fun piece of cinema, full of playful energy. Central to that playfulness is the cunning trickery that the film's con men employ. With so many clever twists and turns, one sometimes joyfully experiences a mild confusion in separating what is genuine and what is merely part of the con. It is, therefore, a tad disappointing to have foreknowledge of these twists, as I did on this repeat viewing of the film. Being aware of the final twist is especially unfortunate, although it does bring a new perspective to those subtle glances between characters. In any case, there is certainly more than one twist during the course of the story and I didn't remember them all, so there were still a few surprises remaining for me to delight in.
The Entertainer, are wonderfully evocative.
As the leader of the confidence team, Paul Newman is at his charming best. He squeezes every drop of wit from an already incredibly witty script. Especially enjoyable is his character's fake drunkenness. Robert Redford's natural gift of subtlety gives Hooker a sarcastic sincerity that is, as always, innately watchable. Robert Shaw brings his stoic intensity to his portrayal of Lonnegan. Charles Durning is, likewise, brilliant. As are Ray Walston, Harold Gould, Dana Elcar, Jack Kehoe, Eileen Brennan, and I could go on. The entire cast all slip seamlessly into their characters, helped along by the excellent script, no doubt, but that's not to diminish the effectiveness of their performances. And if Luther looks familiar to you, imagine him as a Sith Lord saying, "I am your father!" Those words actually ring true since Robert Earl Jones is, indeed, the father of the voice of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones, who is the spitting image of his dear old dad.