The Hustler (1961) Blind Spot Review

Today would have been Paul Newman’s birthday, so I’m reviewing his film The Hustler for my Blind Spot 2017 Series as well as my IMDB Top 250 Project. Like many classics, this was in the Top 250 when I started the project on 01/01/13 but is currently not on the list.

Let’s see what I thought of The Hustler (as well as its 1986 sequel The Color Of Money, which I’m reviewing tomorrow)…

The Hustler (1961)

Directed by Robert Rossen

Based on The Hustler by Walter Tevis

Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, Myron McCormick, Murray Hamilton, Michael Constantine, Stefan Gierasch, Clifford Pellow, Jake LaMotta

IMDB Rank: 197 out of 250 (as of 01/01/13)

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Hustler tells the story of small-time pool hustler “Fast Eddie” Felson and his desire to break into the “major league” of professional hustling and high-stakes wagering by high-rollers that follows it. He throws his raw talent and ambition up against the best player in the country; seeking to best the legendary pool player “Minnesota Fats.”

My Opinion:

Paul Newman was so damn hot. What a hunk. I lusted after him through this whole movie. It’s quite disappointing that it’s in black & white because I like seeing those baby blue eyes of his in color. But even in black & white, he’s still dreamy. *sigh*

The Hustler is very good and I can see why it’s a classic and it totally sucks that current films keep knocking old films such as this one out of the IMDB Top 250. I can sort of understand why, though, as I’m guilty myself of not exploring many movies that are pre-1970 or so but it does annoy me that most young people want to watch nothing but current stuff these days. Anyway, I enjoyed The Hustler and the acting is phenomenal, which I think it what makes this one such a classic. Surprisingly, though, it was Piper Laurie who stole the show. Wow. More about her later…

Newman was his usual self: Full of charm & charisma. He was such a great actor and one of only a handful over the years who I feel had that extra “something” that made him my definition of a true movie star. You know that “something” that’s hard to explain? I feel that “something” is missing from most artists nowadays (especially within the music industry – even more so than in film). I haven’t explored as much of Newman’s work as I’d like but I can now say that The Hustler is a must-see for anyone wanting to see him in his best roles. There’s more than just his usual charm & charisma here – he’s a lonely, complex character and the movie truly comes alive when he becomes involved with Piper Laurie’s similarly lost soul.

Newman is fantastic and it’s a shame he didn’t win the Oscar but Laurie is stunning. I’m glad, like Newman, that she also got a nomination but it’s a shame that she hasn’t gotten more recognition for this role. I’ll be honest – I didn’t even know she was in The Hustler! I’ll also be totally honest & admit that I’ve never really known her as anything other than Margaret White in Carrie. I LOVE her in Carrie (she easily topped my list of My Top Ten Crazy Ladies In Movies). Who knew she could play a disturbed character with such sympathetic subtlety in The Hustler just as well as she did full-on batshit crazy in Carrie?? I love her in both roles but have a new respect for her – I’m very glad I got to see this performance.

Clearly the relationship between Newman & Laurie is what I latched onto and what made the movie for me but there are of course some other important characters and, yes – plenty of pool. The two really worth mentioning are Jackie Gleason as “Minnesota Fats”, a brilliant pool-playing rival to Newman, and George C. Scott as an evil, greedy bastard. Seriously – what a dick. I wanted to punch him in the face. Therefore, I guess he played his role well!

Summary:

The Hustler is worthy of its status as a classic and it’s a great way to kick off my choice of 2017 Blind Spot films. I admit, however, that it did drag for me at times in a way that older movies often do for those who have mostly watched post-1970 movies (like me). I have zero interest whatsoever in pool and, while this movie is not actually about pool and more about human interaction, there’s still plenty of pool. Some will of course love the actual pool scenes but the final game of pool is the only one that really matters and the one that fully held my attention. The movie is a little slow-going at first but the phenomenal performances from all involved, especially from Newman & Laurie, make the second half of the film intense & gripping. The Hustler is well worth your time if you have an interest in old Hollywood classics.

My Rating: 8/10

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My Top Ten Crazy Ladies In Movies

I love crazy ladies in movies! I was going to call this “Crazy Bitches” but didn’t want to get in trouble as people are so on edge about these sort of things nowadays. Actually, I could also be in trouble for using the word “crazy”, I suppose. I’m female so am I allowed to say “crazy bitch”?!

I feel like I should be offended when movies portray women as mentally unstable, especially when it’s over a “man”. But I’m not (well, okay – I’m a little offended by the “crazy ex-girlfriend” thing – the majority of us aren’t obsessed with men, believe it or not!). There are plenty of psychotic men in movies & no one seems to have any issues with that. Is it only okay for men to be psychos?

I have no issues with psychotic male or female characters – as long as the actor has fun with the role. The more over-the-top the better! I love when an actor clearly enjoys playing crazy & goes all out, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining or Kathy Bates in Misery. I have to say that I think it’s kind of funny that the term “bunny boiler” is so commonly used now, though. It just goes to show how great Glenn Close was in Fatal Attraction (written & directed by men). Women rarely get that crazy over men as far as I’m aware but it’s interesting that some guys think we might! πŸ˜‰

Here are My Top Ten Crazy Ladies In Movies, counting down to my favorite:

10. Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees in Friday The 13th

9. Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard

8. Samantha Eggar as Nola Carveth in The Brood

7. Jessica Walter as Evelyn in Play Misty For Me

6. Lara Flynn Boyle as Stacy in Wayne’s World

5. The Xenomorph Queen in Aliens

4. Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery

3. Betty Lou Gerson as the voice of Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians

2. Glenn Close as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction

1. Piper Laurie as Margaret White in Carrie

I’ve left SO many out. It was hard to choose only ten! So here’s a long list of honorable mentions (and I’ve still left a lot out):

Honorable Mentions:

All the kick-ass ladies in Kill Bill
– Billie Whitelaw as Mrs. Baylock in The Omen
– Betty Davis as Baby Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
– Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Carmody in The Mist
– Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers in Black Swan
– Fairuza Balk as Nancy Downs in The Craft
– Eleanor Audley as the voice of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty
– Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl
– Essie Davis as Amelia in The Babadook
– Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart in The Others
– Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct
– Juliette Lewis as Mallory Knox in Natural Born Killers
– Jennifer Jason Leigh as Hedra Carlson in Single White Female
– Rebecca De Mornay as Peyton Flanders in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
– Drew Barrymore as Ivy in Poison Ivy
– Elizabeth Taylor as Martha in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
– Kate Winslet as Juliet Hulme & Melanie Lynskey as Pauline Parker in Heavenly Creatures
– Margot Kidder as Danielle in Sisters
– Deanna Dunagan as Nana in The Visit
– Anthony Perkins in Psycho…

A Few I’ve Not Seen:
Audition
Mommie Dearest
Switchblade Romance
Suicide Squad

And here’s a shoutout to Crazy TV Ladies, including most of the females in Game Of Thrones! Love those Game Of Thrones gals.

Let’s end this with Taylor Swift’s video for Blank Space… πŸ˜‰

I bet no one who knows my taste in music ever thought they’d see a Taylor Swift video on my blog! It just felt like the right video to end this post. To be fair to Swift, it’s cool that she had fun with the media’s unfair image of her.

You can read a great article about the portrayal of women as “crazy” & the sexist double standards that still exist in Hollywood (and in real life) HERE at dailydot.com. It starts out about Swift but then gets into detail about the history of the sexist treatment of famous women.