The Hustler (1961)

The pool table provides a test of skill and character in this evocative drama showcasing actor Paul Newman’s bad-boy allure.

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Alternative titles

  • Robert Rossen's the Hustler Alternative


“The first truly iconic thing Paul Newman did, it would be remembered fondly and deservedly for decades.”
Shawn Levy, Paul Newman: A Life, 2009

Director Robert Rossen and ace cameraman Eugen Schüfftan transformed the previously disreputable milieu of the downtown pool hall into an arena of hipster cool in this adaptation of Walter Tevis’s 1959 novel. Their atmospherically crisp widescreen black-and-white images suggest that true character is at stake here as Paul Newman’s cocky newcomer Fast Eddie Felson takes on established favourite Minnesota Fats (comedian Jackie Gleason excelling in a rare dramatic role).

Newman’s self-confident onscreen swagger established the star persona that was to sustain much of his career, yet this drama – showing how Eddie has much to learn as a man before he can master the sport – allowed him to display the emotional range that also marked him out as a fine actor.

Newman reprised the Fast Eddie Felson role in Martin Scorsese’s sequel The Color of Money (1986), opposite Tom Cruise as the new generation’s hot-shot contender.

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