Stars: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, Myron McCormick
Genre: Drama, Sport
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 134 minutes
Paul Newman shines as cocky poolroom hustler "Fast" Eddie Felson in Robert Rossen's atmospheric adaptation of the Walter Tevis novel. Newman's Felson is a swaggering pool shark punk who takes on the king of the poolroom, Minnesota Fats (a cool, assured Jackie Gleason in his most understated performance). After losing big and crashing into a void of self-pity, Eddie meets down-and-out Sarah (Piper Laurie in a delicate performance), an alcoholic blue blood who's dropped into Eddie's world of dingy bars and seedy poolrooms. Eddie regains his confidence and attracts the attention of a shifty, calculating promoter, Bert Gordon (George C. Scott at his most heartless), who offers to bring Eddie into the big money--but at what cost? Rossen brings his film to life with the easy pace of a pool game, giving his actors room to explore their characters and develop into a razor-sharp ensemble. Eugen Schüfftan earned an Academy Award for his shadowing black-and-white cinematography, as did art directors Harry Horner and Gene Callahan for their deceivingly simple set designs. Even in the daylight this film seems to be smothered by night, lit by the dim glow of a bar lamp or the overhead glare of a pool-table light, an appropriate environment for this tale of one man's struggle with his soul and his self-esteem. Newman returned as an older, wiser, cagier Felson 25 years later in Martin Scorsese's Color of Money. --Sean Axmaker
Cause, ya see, twice, Sarah... once at Ames with Minnesota Fats and then again at Arthur's, in that cheap, crummy pool room, now why'd I do it, Sarah? Why'd I do it? I coulda beat that guy, coulda beat 'im cold, he never woulda known. But I just hadda show 'im. Just hadda show those creeps and those punks what the game is like when it's great, when it's REALLY great. You know, like anything can be great, anything can be great. I don't care, BRICKLAYING can be great, if a guy knows. If he knows what he's doing and why and if he can make it come off. When I'm goin', I mean, when I'm REALLY goin' I feel like a... like a jockey must feel. He's sittin' on his horse, he's got all that speed and that power underneath him... he's comin' into the stretch, the pressure's on 'im, and he KNOWS... just feels... when to let it go and how much. Cause he's got everything workin' for 'im, timing touch... it's a great feeling, boy, it's a real great feeling when you're right and you KNOW you're right. It's like all of a sudden I got oil in my arm. The pool cue's part of me. You know, it's uh - pool cue, it's got nerves in it. It's a piece of wood, it's got nerves in it. Feel the roll of those balls, you don't have to look, you just KNOW. You make shots that nobody's ever made before. I can play that game the way... NOBODY'S ever played it before.
You're not a loser, Eddie, you're a winner. Some men never get to feel that way about anything.
You've the best excuse in the world for losing; no trouble losing when you got a good excuse. Winning. That can be heavy on your back too, like a monkey. You'll drop that load too when you got an excuse. All you gotta do is learn to feel sorry for yourself. One of the best indoor sports, feeling sorry for yourself. A sport enjoyed by all, especially the born losers.
You know, I got a hunch, fat man. I got a hunch that it's me from here on in. One ball, corner pocket. I mean, that ever happen to you? You know, all of a sudden you feel like you just can't miss? 'Cause I dreamed about this game, fat man. I dreamed about it every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it.