Release year: 1973
Director: George Roy Hill
Screenwriter: David S. Ward
Starring: Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eilenn Brennan
Ratings: 7 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Score. 3 Oscar nominations: Best Actor (Robert Redford), Best Cinematography, Best Sound.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #41, week 12 2015
When one of young con man Johnny Hooker’s gang members is killed he seeks out the master of big cons and mutual friend Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman). Together they plan to take revenge for their lost friend by relieving the mobster who got him killed of a lot of money.
Set in 1936 The Sting is a caper movie involving a complicated plot that leaves the viewers unsure of the end result until the very end. Screenwriter David S. Ward found the inspiration for the story in The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man by David Maurer that told the story of real life con men, and brothers, Fred and Charley Gondorff, a story he came across when he was researching for his movie Steelyard Blues (1973), which includes a pickpocketing scene. Ward wrote the script with Redford (All the President’s Men, 1976) in mind and when George Roy Hill came on board as director he got Newman (The Towering Inferno, 1974) on board leading the three of them to work together for the second time after doing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid together in 1969. Newman and Redford repeated their brilliant chemistry and the great amount of charm shared among the two leading men adds charm to the entire movie, supported by the award winning score consisting of cheerful piano tunes that keeps the mood light despite the sometimes dark material. It is easy regonizing Redford as the youngster, his attitude reeks of cheekiness and a carefree nature and with his long blond locks and almost constant smile on his lips, he is almost the opposite of Newman’s more calm and collected mentor. Though more serious in manner, there never goes many minutes without a glint in newman’s very, very blue eyes ensuring his contribution to the charm of the movie. Though Redford holds his own perfectly fine, the movie kicks into an entirely other gear when the two are united and from there it races on until the finish. Though eyes will mostly be on the leads they are supported by a great cast, including a great Shaw (Jaws, 1975) as mobster Doyle Lonnegan and a terrific Brennan (Clue, 1985) as Billie, the woman keeping Gondorff hidden from the FBI that are on his tail. But it is far from limited to them as every part, big or small, seems to be well-casted and well-played. With very little camera movement and in-between chapter titles with illustrations making it appear as if reading a news paper, Oscar-winning costumes and a ragtime soundtrack, Hill has created a superb gangster film that looks like it belongs in the 1930s and it is almost hard to believe it is actually from the 1970s, making it not just a classic but a timeless classic. A must see for any fan of Reford/Newman/gangster movies/con movies or just anyone who enjoy a good movie.
Robert Shaw injured his knee shortly before filming started but merely incorporated the limb into his character.
Many characters are seen drinking Schiltz beer during the film. Schiltz was the largest beer company in the world during the 1930s.
Julia Philips, one of the film’s producers, became the first woman to be nominated for and win an Oscar for Best Picture making it a historical milestone for acceptance of higher positions for women in the movie industry.
Picture copyright: UIP