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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Sting
Theatrical release poster (alternate design)
Directed byGeorge Roy Hill
Written byDavid S. Ward
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyRobert Surtees
Edited byWilliam Reynolds
Music byMarvin Hamlisch
Production
companies
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 25, 1973 (1973-12-25)
Running time
129 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$5.5 million[1]
Box office$257 million

The Sting is a 1973 American caper film set in September 1936, involving a complicated plot by two professional grifters (Paul Newman and Robert Redford) to con a mob boss (Robert Shaw).[2] The film was directed by George Roy Hill,[3] who had previously directed Newman and Redford in the Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and written by screenwriter David S. Ward, inspired by real-life cons perpetrated by brothers Fred and Charley Gondorff and documented by David Maurer in his 1940 book The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man.

The film plays out in distinct sections with old-fashioned title cards drawn by artist Jaroslav "Jerry" Gebr in a style reminiscent of the Saturday Evening Post. It is noted for its use of ragtime, particularly the melody "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin, which was adapted (along with other Joplin pieces) for the film by Marvin Hamlisch (and a top-ten chart single for Hamlisch when released as a single from the film's soundtrack). The film's success created a resurgence of interest in Joplin's work.[4]

Released on Christmas of 1973, The Sting was a massive critical and commercial success and hugely successful at the 46th Academy Awards, nominated for ten Oscars and winning seven, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Original Screenplay; Redford was also nominated for Best Actor. The film rekindled Newman's career after a series of big-screen flops. Regarded as having one of the best screenplays ever written, The Sting was selected in 2005 for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It was followed by a sequel, The Sting II, in 1983.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • The Sting Wins Original Screenplay: 1974 Oscars
  • The Sting (1/10) Movie CLIP - World's Easiest Five Grand (1973) HD
  • The Sting - What To Watch Before You Die
  • The Sting (8/10) Movie CLIP - A Real Professional (1973) HD
  • The Sting (9/10) Movie CLIP - You're a Gutless Cheat (1973) HD

Transcription

Plot

In 1936, amid the Great Depression, grifter Johnny Hooker and his partners Luther Coleman and Joe Erie con $11,000 in cash from an unsuspecting victim in Joliet, Illinois. Hooker loses his share of the con on a rigged roulette game, while Luther, buoyed by the windfall, decides to retire. He tells Hooker to seek out his old friend Henry Gondorff in Chicago to learn "the big con". Corrupt Joliet police lieutenant William Snyder confronts Hooker, revealing their mark was a courier for vicious Irish-American crime boss Doyle Lonnegan. Lonnegan's men murder Luther and the courier. After finding Luther dead, Hooker flees to Chicago.

Hooker finds Gondorff drunk and in hiding from the FBI, running a carousel that is a front for a brothel, and asks for help taking down Lonnegan. Initially reluctant, Gondorff relents and recruits a team of experienced con men. They decide to resurrect an elaborate, obsolete scam known as "the wire", using a large crew to create a phony off-track betting parlor. Snyder and Lonnegan's men track Hooker to Chicago; Gondorff warns Hooker that if either of them find him, the con will have to fold.

Aboard the opulent 20th Century Limited, Gondorff, posing as the boorish Chicago bookie "Shaw", buys into Lonnegan's private, high-stakes poker game and infuriates Lonnegan with his obnoxious behavior, then cheats him out of $15,000. Hooker, posing as "Shaw's" disgruntled employee "Kelly", is sent to collect the winnings and to convince Lonnegan to help him take over "Shaw's" operation. Hooker returns home to find Lonnegan's men waiting for him, but avoids their pursuit; Gondorff is spooked by their proximity, but Hooker convinces him to keep the con alive.

Snyder's pursuit of Hooker attracts the attention of undercover FBI agents led by Agent Polk, who orders Snyder to bring Hooker in to entrap Gondorff. Meanwhile, Lonnegan, frustrated with his men's inability to kill Hooker for the Joliet con, orders the job to be given to Salino, his best assassin. A mysterious figure with black leather gloves begins following and observing Hooker.

"Kelly" gives Lonnegan a tip on a 7-to-1 long shot in a horse race that pays off. When Lonnegan presses him for details, he reveals that he has a partner, "Les Harmon" (actually con man Kid Twist), in the Chicago Western Union office, who will help them topple "Shaw" by winning bets he books on horse races through past-posting. Lonnegan is convinced after being provided the trifecta of another race, and agrees to finance a $500,000 bet to break "Shaw" and get revenge. Shortly thereafter, Snyder captures Hooker and brings him before Polk, who forces Hooker to betray Gondorff by threatening to jail Luther Coleman's widow.

Feeling despondent the night before the sting, Hooker sleeps with a diner waitress named Loretta. The next morning, as she walks toward him in an alley, the black-gloved man appears and shoots her dead. The man reveals that he was hired by Gondorff to protect Hooker and that the waitress was in fact Salino.

At "Harmon's" direction, Lonnegan bets $500,000 at "Shaw's" parlor on a horse named Lucky Dan. As the race begins, "Harmon" arrives and expresses shock at Lonnegan's bet: when he said "place it" he meant that the horse would "place" (i.e., finish second). In a panic, Lonnegan rushes to the teller window and demands his money back, at which point Polk, Snyder, and a half-dozen FBI agents storm the parlor. Polk tells Hooker he is free to go; shocked at the betrayal, Gondorff shoots Hooker. Polk shoots Gondorff and orders Snyder to get the ostensibly respectable Lonnegan away from the crime scene.

With Lonnegan and Snyder safely away, Hooker and Gondorff rise amid cheers and laughter: "Polk" is actually Hickey, and along with the other 'FBI agents,' has been running a con within the con to divert Snyder and ensure that Lonnegan abandons the money without ever realizing he was taken. As the con men strip the room of its contents, Hooker refuses his share of the money, claiming he would lose it anyway, and walks away with Gondorff.

Cast

Production

Writing

Screenwriter David S. Ward has said in an interview that he was inspired to write The Sting while researching pickpockets: "Since I had never seen a film about a confidence man before, I said I gotta do this." Daniel Eagan said: "One key to plots about con men is that film goers want to feel they are in on the trick. They don't have to know how a scheme works, and they don't mind a twist or two, but it's important for the story to feature clearly recognizable 'good' and 'bad' characters." It took a year for Ward to fine-tune this aspect of the script and to figure out how much information he could keep from the audience while still making the leads sympathetic. He also imagined an underground brotherhood of thieves who assemble for a big operation and then melt away afterward.[5]

Years later, director Rob Cohen recounted how he found the script in the slush pile when working as a reader for Mike Medavoy, a future studio head, but then an agent. He wrote in his coverage that it was "the great American screenplay and … will make an award-winning, major-cast, major-director film." Medavoy said that he would try to sell it on that recommendation, promising to fire Cohen if he could not. Universal bought it that afternoon, and Cohen keeps the coverage framed on the wall of his office.[6]

Academic David Maurer sued for plagiarism, claiming the screenplay was based too heavily on his 1940 book The Big Con, about real-life tricksters Fred and Charley Gondorff. Universal settled out of court for $600,000, irking Ward, who resented the presumption of guilt implied by an out-of-court settlement done for business expediency.[7]

Writer/producer Roy Huggins maintained in his Archive of American Television interview that the first half of The Sting plagiarized the 1958 Maverick television series episode "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres", starring James Garner and Jack Kelly.

Casting

Robert Redford during a break in shooting (1973)

Jack Nicholson was offered the lead role but turned it down.[8] He later said “I had enough business acumen to know The Sting was going to be a huge hit, [but] at the same time Chinatown and The Last Detail were more interesting films to me.”[9]

Newman signed on the film after the producers agreed to give him top billing, $500,000 and a percentage of the profits. His previous five films had been box-office disappointments.[10]

In her 1991 autobiography You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, producer Julia Phillips writes that Hill wanted Richard Boone to play Lonnegan. Much to her relief, Newman had sent the script to Robert Shaw while shooting The Mackintosh Man in Ireland to ensure his participation in the film. Phillips' book asserts that Shaw was not nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award because he demanded that his name follow those of Newman and Redford before the film's opening title.[11]

Shaw's character's limp in the film was authentic. Shaw had injured his leg while playing handball shortly before filming began. Director Hill encouraged him to incorporate the limp into his character rather than withdraw from the project.[12]

Principal photography

Hill wanted the film to be reminiscent of movies from the 1930s and watched films from that decade for inspiration. He noticed that most '30s gangster films had no extras. "For instance", Andrew Horton's book The Films of George Roy Hill quotes Hill as saying, "no extras would be used in street scenes in those films: Jimmy Cagney would be shot down and die in an empty street. So I deliberately avoided using extras."[13]

Along with art director Henry Bumstead and cinematographer Robert L. Surtees, Hill devised a color scheme of muted browns and maroons for the film and a lighting design that combined old-fashioned 1930s-style lighting with some modern tricks of the trade to get the visual look he wanted. Edith Head designed a wardrobe of snappy period costumes for the cast, and artist Jaroslav Gebr created inter-title cards to be used to introduce each section of the film that were reminiscent of the golden glow of old Saturday Evening Post illustrations, a popular publication of the 1930s.

Filming on location in Pasadena, California. Stand-ins are used to set up the shot.

The movie was filmed on the Universal Studios backlot, with a few small scenes shot in Wheeling, West Virginia, some scenes filmed at the Santa Monica pier's carousel,[14] in Southern California, and in Chicago at Union Station and the former LaSalle Street Station.[15][16] An antique car buff, co-producer Tony Bill helped round up several period cars to use in The Sting. One of them was his own 1935 Pierce-Arrow limousine, which served as Lonnegan's private car.

Reception

Box office

The film was a box-office smash in 1973 and early 1974, grossing $156 million in the United States and Canada.[17] As of August 2018, it is the 20th highest-grossing film in the United States adjusted for ticket price inflation.[18] Internationally, it grossed $101 million[19] for a worldwide gross of $257 million.

Critical response

Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and called it "one of the most stylish movies of the year".[20] Gene Siskel awarded three-and-a-half stars out of four, calling it "a movie movie that has obviously been made with loving care each and every step of the way."[21] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that the film was "so good-natured, so obviously aware of everything it's up to, even its own picturesque frauds, that I opt to go along with it. One forgives its unrelenting efforts to charm, if only because The Sting itself is a kind of con game, devoid of the poetic aspirations that weighed down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."[22] Variety wrote, "George Roy Hill's outstanding direction of David S. Ward's finely-crafted story of multiple deception and surprise ending will delight both mass and class audiences. Extremely handsome production values and a great supporting cast round out the virtues."[23] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called it "an unalloyed delight, the kind of pure entertainment film that's all the more welcome for having become such a rarity."[24] John Simon wrote that The Sting as a comedy-thriller "works endearingly without a hitch".[25]

Pauline Kael of The New Yorker was less enthusiastic, writing that the film "is meant to be roguishly charming entertainment, and that's how most of the audience takes it, but I found it visually claustrophobic, and totally mechanical. It creeps cranking on, section after section, and it doesn't have a good spirit."[26]

In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The Writers Guild of America ranked the screenplay #39 on its list of 101 Greatest Screenplays ever written.[27] On Rotten Tomatoes, The Sting holds a rating of 92% from 101 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and director George Roy Hill prove that charm, humor, and a few slick twists can add up to a great film."[28] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[29]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominees Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Picture Tony Bill, Julia Phillips, and Michael Phillips Won [30]
[31]
Best Director George Roy Hill Won
Best Actor Robert Redford Nominated
Best Original Screenplay David S. Ward Won
Best Art Direction Henry Bumstead and James W. Payne Won
Best Cinematography Robert Surtees Nominated
Best Costume Design Edith Head Won
Best Film Editing William Reynolds Won
Best Scoring: Original Song Score and Adaptation or Scoring: Adaptation Marvin Hamlisch Won
Best Sound Ronald Pierce and Robert R. Bertrand Nominated
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film William Reynolds Won
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actor Robert Redford Won[a]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures George Roy Hill Won [32]
Edgar Allan Poe Awards Best Motion Picture David S. Ward Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Nominated [33]
Golden Screen Awards Won
Kinema Junpo Awards Best Foreign Language Film Director George Roy Hill Won
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films Won [34]
Best Film Won
National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Inducted
Online Film & Television Association Awards Hall of Fame – Motion Picture Honored [35]
People's Choice Awards Favorite Motion Picture Won [36]
Producers Guild of America Awards Hall of Fame – Motion Pictures Tony Bill, Julia Phillips, and Michael Phillips Won [37]
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama – Written Directly for the Screen David S. Ward Nominated [38]

Soundtrack

The Sting (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Released1974
Recorded1973
Genre
Length36:59
LabelMCA Records
Producer
Marvin Hamlisch chronology
The Way We Were: Original Soundtrack Recording
(1974)
The Sting (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
(1974)
The Spy Who Loved Me
(1977)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[39]

The soundtrack album, executive produced by Gil Rodin, includes several of Scott Joplin's ragtime compositions, adapted by Marvin Hamlisch.

According to Joplin scholar Edward A. Berlin, ragtime experienced a revival in the 1970s due to several events: a best-selling recording of Joplin rags on the classical Nonesuch Records label, along with a collection of his music issued by the New York Public Library; the first full staging of Joplin's opera Treemonisha; and a performance of period orchestrations of Joplin's music by a student ensemble of the New England Conservatory of Music, led by Gunther Schuller. "Inspired by Schuller's recording, [Hill] had Marvin Hamlisch score Joplin's music for the film, thereby bringing Joplin to a mass, popular public."[4]

  1. "Solace" (Joplin) – orchestral version
  2. "The Entertainer" (Joplin) – orchestral version
  3. "The Easy Winners" (Joplin)
  4. "Hooker's Hooker" (Hamlisch)
  5. "Luther" – same basic tune as "Solace", adapted by Hamlisch as a dirge
  6. "Pine Apple Rag" / "Gladiolus Rag" medley (Joplin)
  7. "The Entertainer" (Joplin) – piano version
  8. "The Glove" (Hamlisch) – a Jazz Age style number; only a short segment was used in the film
  9. "Little Girl" (Madeline Hyde, Francis Henry) – heard only as a short instrumental segment over a car radio
  10. "Pine Apple Rag" (Joplin)
  11. "Merry-Go-Round Music" medley; "Listen to the Mocking Bird", "Darling Nellie Gray", "Turkey in the Straw" (traditional) – "Listen to the Mocking Bird" was the only portion of this track that was actually used in the film, along with a segment of "King Cotton", a Sousa march, a segment of "The Diplomat", another Sousa march, a segment of Sousa's Washington Post March, and a segment of "The Regimental Band", a Charles C. Sweeley march, all of which were not on the album. All six tunes were recorded from the Santa Monica Pier carousel's band organ.
  12. "Solace" (Joplin) – piano version
  13. "The Entertainer" / "The Ragtime Dance" medley (Joplin)

Charts

Certifications and sales

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[52] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[53] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Adaptations

Stage

Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis (music and lyrics), writer Bob Martin, and director John Rando created a stage musical version of the movie. The musical premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey on March 29, 2018. Henry Gondorff was played by Harry Connick Jr., with choreography by Warren Carlyle.[54] The stage musical incorporates Joplin's music, including "The Entertainer".[55]

Novelization

Robert Weverka adapted the film into a full-length novel, The Sting (1974), based on the screenplay by David S. Ward.[56]

Home media

The movie was issued on DVD by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment in 2000. "If Paul Newman really does retire, he can spend his rocking chair years feeling smug about this," enthused Bruno MacDonald for OK! "The story's not the important thing: what makes it are the quirky soundtrack, the card-sharp dialogue and two superduperstars at their superduperstarriest."[57]

A deluxe DVD – The Sting: Special Edition (part of the Universal Legacy Series) – was released in September 2005. Its "making of" featurette, The Art of the Sting, included interviews with cast and crew.

The film was released on Blu-ray in 2012 as part of Universal's 100th anniversary releases.

The Sting was released on Ultra HD Blu-ray on May 18, 2021.[58]

See also

References

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  2. ^ Variety film review; December 12, 1973, page 16.
  3. ^ "The Sting". Turner Classic Movies Database. Archived from the original on October 2, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Berlin, Edward A. (1996). "Scott Joplin". Classical Net. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
  5. ^ Eagan, Daniel (2009). America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry. Bloomsberry. p. 700. ISBN 978-0-8264-2977-3. Retrieved April 13, 2022.
  6. ^ Lussier, Germaine (November 21, 2008). "Screenings: 'The Sting' as part of Paul Newman Retrospective". Times-Herald Record. Middletown, NY. Archived from the original on December 24, 2008. Retrieved November 21, 2008.
  7. ^ Horowitz, Joy (March 15, 1992). "Hollywood Law: Whose Idea Is It, Anyway?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 20, 2022. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
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  10. ^ J. Quirk, Lawrence (September 16, 2009). Paul Newman: A Life. Taylor Trade Publishing. pp. 212–215. ISBN 978-1-5897-9438-2.
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  55. ^ Clement, Olivia (February 13, 2018). "Harry Connick Jr. to Star in Broadway-Bound Musical 'The Sting'". Playbill. Archived from the original on February 15, 2018.
  56. ^ The Sting: Published 1974, Bantam Books (first published January 1st 1973) ISBN 0553082728
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  1. ^ Tied with Al Pacino for Serpico.

External links

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