The Hustler (1961)

133 mins | Drama | 26 September 1961

Director:

Robert Rossen

Producer:

Robert Rossen

Cinematographer:

Eugen Schüfftan

Editor:

Dede Allen

Production Designer:

Harry Horner

Production Company:

Rossen Enterprises
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HISTORY

A 24 Apr 1959 DV news brief announced that writer-director-producer Robert Rossen had purchased film rights to Walter S. Tevis’s novel, The Hustler, published that year by Harper & Brothers. United Artists (UA) was set to produce and distribute the film, which would begin shooting in Sep or Oct 1959 in New York City. Over a year later, the 1 Sep 1960 DV stated that Rossen and UA Vice President Robert F. Blumofe would soon meet to discuss plans for filming, scheduled to begin later that year. Sidney Carroll was said to be at work adapting the script.
       Singer Bobby Darin was named as a contender for the role of “Eddie Felson” in a in a 23 Sep 1960 DV column, but the part went to Paul Newman, as announced in the 3 Nov 1960 DV. Piper Laurie’s casting was reported later that month, in a 25 Nov 1960 DV item, and Jackie Gleason was named as a co-star in the 17 Jan 1961 DV, which stated that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation was now the studio behind the film. By 27 Jan 1961, George C. Scott had been cast in the role of “Bert Gordon,” according to a DV published that day.
       The 11 Jan 1961 DV listed a production start date of 27 Mar 1961, while later DV items indicated that principal photography would begin in Feb 1961. Location scouting reportedly took place in New Orleans, LA, according to the 27 Jan 1961 DV; however, filming took place entirely in New York City, beginning ... More Less

A 24 Apr 1959 DV news brief announced that writer-director-producer Robert Rossen had purchased film rights to Walter S. Tevis’s novel, The Hustler, published that year by Harper & Brothers. United Artists (UA) was set to produce and distribute the film, which would begin shooting in Sep or Oct 1959 in New York City. Over a year later, the 1 Sep 1960 DV stated that Rossen and UA Vice President Robert F. Blumofe would soon meet to discuss plans for filming, scheduled to begin later that year. Sidney Carroll was said to be at work adapting the script.
       Singer Bobby Darin was named as a contender for the role of “Eddie Felson” in a in a 23 Sep 1960 DV column, but the part went to Paul Newman, as announced in the 3 Nov 1960 DV. Piper Laurie’s casting was reported later that month, in a 25 Nov 1960 DV item, and Jackie Gleason was named as a co-star in the 17 Jan 1961 DV, which stated that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation was now the studio behind the film. By 27 Jan 1961, George C. Scott had been cast in the role of “Bert Gordon,” according to a DV published that day.
       The 11 Jan 1961 DV listed a production start date of 27 Mar 1961, while later DV items indicated that principal photography would begin in Feb 1961. Location scouting reportedly took place in New Orleans, LA, according to the 27 Jan 1961 DV; however, filming took place entirely in New York City, beginning 6 Mar 1961, as noted in various sources including the 3 Mar 1961 DV. Three weeks of rehearsals had preceded principal photography, according to a 26 Nov 1961 NYT article, and the actors continued to sneak in extra rehearsals during production, according to Newman.
       Location filming was based around the 8th and 9th Avenue area in Manhattan’s Broadway district, as stated in a 16 Feb 1961 DV “Just for Variety” column. The 19 Mar 1961 NYT named Ames Billiard Academy on West 44th Street as the primary location for pool hall scenes, and noted the use of a CinemaScope camera. Fifty-seven-year-old national billiards champion Willie Mosconi served as technical advisor. Prior to filming, Mosconi had spent two weeks instructing Paul Newman in pool technique. During production, the professional player performed some shots, and arranged balls for the actors. Jackie Gleason claimed to have been a “pretty good” player at one time, but acknowledged that his skills had lapsed. Other New York City locations included a Greyhound Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan, and a restaurant on 8th Avenue. Interiors were filmed at Twentieth Century-Fox’s Movietone Building. As noted in a 25 Apr 1961 DV brief, while filming was underway, Rossen cast fifteen real-life socialites to play high society background actors.
       Two New York City electrical inspectors attempted to bribe filmmakers during the shoot. An article in the 22 Mar 1961 NYT reported that Joseph Mintzer and Anthony Angelo, who worked for the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity, were arrested on charges of extortion and bribery after an account of their misconduct was sent anonymously to a post-office box set up by Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr., for citizens to report “graft or unethical conduct by city employees.” Mintzer and Angelo allegedly promised to overlook electrical violations at the Ames Billiard Academy if Twentieth Century-Fox agreed to pay them $100 per day. Undercover policemen, posing as crewmembers, investigated the graft for two weeks before arresting the men on set.
       The budget was cited as $1.5 million in the 19 Mar 1961 NYT, and later as $1.8 million in a 23 Oct 1961 DV item. Newman was reportedly promised a percentage of profits in addition to his salary, while Gleason received a flat $75,000 for three weeks’ work.
       The title was changed during production to Sin of Angels, as announced in the 15 Mar 1961 DV. Shortly after, the 24 Mar 1961 DV reported that the new title was not “sitting well” with Rossen and would likely be changed back. A 28 Mar 1961 DV item stated that UA had contested the new title due to its similarity to The Sins of the Angels, which it had previously registered with the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) Title Registration Bureau. A 12 Apr 1961 DV brief confirmed the original title had been restored, and credited Fox and its branch managers with the decision.
       Fred Hift, who had acted as publicity coordinator on Fox’s recent production of Frances of Assisi (1961, see entry), was said to be performing a similar role on The Hustler, according to an item in the 14 Feb 1961 DV. Promotions included personal appearances by Newman and Piper Laurie in multiple cities, as noted in the 29 Sep 1961 DV and 30 Sep 1961 LAT. Newman’s tour dates were “sandwiched in” between filming dates on Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man (1962, see entry), which was shooting in Ironwood, MI.
       The picture opened 26 Sep 1961 at the Paramount Theatre, and Seventy-Second Street Playhouse, in New York City, according to various sources including the 15 Sep 1961 NYT. It became a commercial and critical success, grossing $59,000 in its first six days at the Paramount, the best showing at that theater since The Young Lions in 1958 (see entry), as noted in the 2 Oct 1961 DV. The 26 Nov 1961 NYT deemed the film a “sleeper” hit. Fox president Spyros P. Skouras expected the picture to gross upwards of $4 million domestically. Despite satisfying ticket sales, Newman reportedly accused Fox of being “too greedy for a buck” in its hasty rollout of the film. The actor believed that The Hustler should have been screened at a single art house theater for several months to build positive word-of-mouth, and shown at the Venice and Cannes Film Festivals before a wider general release. Nevertheless, Newman gave an interview published in the 1 Oct 1961 LAT, in which he claimed The Hustler was the first picture he had done that left him with no desire to re-shoot any scenes. Newman called the film “a corker” and credited it with giving him “the only satisfying feeling” he had had as an actor, to that time. A 2 Feb 1962 NYT article noted that Fox had been experiencing “financial difficulty” for over two years, and had lost roughly $13 million in the fiscal year 1961. However, the studio’s debt was said to have been slightly alleviated by the success of The Hustler.
       Complaints arose over print advertisements for the film, showing Newman “burying his face in Piper Laurie’s bosom,” as noted in a 16 Oct 1961 DV article. The Chicago Sun-Times reportedly received several complaints from readers, who alleged that the image paired with the title implied that the film was about a prostitute, not a “pool shark.”
       The Hustler was ranked #6 on AFI’s list of the Top Ten Sports Films, and received numerous awards, including Academy Awards for Art Direction (Black-and-White) and Cinematography (Black-and-White); the New York Film Critics’ award for Best Director of the Year (Robert Rossen); the British Film Academy award for Best Foreign Actor (Paul Newman); and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) drama award for Rossen and Sidney Carroll’s screenplay. The picture was also named first runner-up for Best Motion Picture of 1961 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, as noted in a 20 Dec 1961 NYT, and Film Daily poll awards went to Newman for Best Actor, Rossen for Best Director and Outstanding Scenarist, and George C. Scott for Best Supporting Actor, according to the 15 Jan 1962 NYT. Academy Award nominations went to Newman for Best Actor, Piper Laurie for Best Actress, Jackie Gleason and Scott for Actor in a Supporting Role, Rossen for Directing, Carroll and Rossen for Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium), and Rossen for Best Motion Picture. Golden Globe Award nominations included: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Newman); New Star of the Year – Actor (Scott); Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture (Gleason and Scott). As reported in the 7 Mar 1962 LAT, Scott requested that AMPAS rescind his Academy Award nomination, as he believed the annual awards ceremony had become a “weird beauty or personality contest” causing actors to “become increasingly award conscious.” AMPAS did not comply with Scott’s request, but informed the actor that he could refuse to accept the honor if he won. A rejection of the award would have been a first, but Scott lost to George Chakiris for West Side Story (1961, see entry).
       As noted in a 3 Apr 1962 DV brief, The Hustler was shown as the U.S. entry at the Argentine Film Festival, where Newman was voted Best Actor.
       Newman reprised the role of “Fast” Eddie Felson in Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money (1986, see entry), based on the novel of the same name written by Walter Tevis as a sequel to The Hustler.
       Rudolph Wanderone, Jr., the professional pool player who was known as "New York Fats," changed his name to "Minnesota Fats" after the character in this film. Fats appeared in the 1972 film The Player (see entry).
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1959
p. 1.
Daily Variety
1 Sep 1960
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Sep 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Nov 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Nov 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1961
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
27 Jan 1961
p. 1.
Daily Variety
14 Feb 1961
p. 10.
Daily Variety
16 Feb 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Feb 1961
p. 12.
Daily Variety
3 Mar 1961
p. 6.
Daily Variety
3 Mar 1961
p. 9.
Daily Variety
15 Mar 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Mar 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Apr 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Apr 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
25 Apr 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Sep 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Sep 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Sep 1961
p. 8.
Daily Variety
2 Oct 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1961.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jan 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Mar 1962
p. 1.
Daily Variety
3 Apr 1962
p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
30 Sep 1961
Section A, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
1 Oct 1961
Section M, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
15 Oct 1961
Section P, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
7 Mar 1962
Section A, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
31 Dec 1962
Section B, p. 6.
New York Times
19 Mar 1961.
---
New York Times
22 Mar 1961
p. 1.
New York Times
15 Sep 1961
p. 30.
New York Times
27 Sep 1961
p. 35.
New York Times
26 Nov 1961.
---
New York Times
20 Dec 1961
p. 36.
New York Times
15 Jan 1962.
---
New York Times
2 Feb 1962
p. 23.
New York Times
6 Apr 1962
p. 31.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Robert Rossen Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Assoc art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Louisville mus
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Tech adv
Stills
Ch elec
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Hustler by Walter S. Tevis (New York, 1959).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Sin of Angels
Stroke of Luck
Release Date:
26 September 1961
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 26 September 1961
Production Date:
6 March--June 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Rossen Enterprises
Copyright Date:
26 September 1961
Copyright Number:
LP20623
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
133
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Newly arrived in New York from California is "Fast" Eddie Felson, a brash pool shark who makes his living hustling in billiard parlors around the country. Taking on unwary opponents, he allows them to win until the stakes are high enough; then he makes his killing and leaves town. Eddie has come to New York with his longtime crony and manager, Charlie Burns, to challenge Minnesota Fats, the undisputed champion pool player in the country. For 36 hours the two men battle, and, at first, game after game goes to Eddie. Then, filled with too much liquor and conceit, he eventually falls apart and ends up beaten and broke. Following the bout, he wanders into an all-night coffeeshop and picks up an alcoholic, disillusioned cripple named Sarah Packard. For want of anything better to do, he moves in with her and lives a day-to-day existence by hustling in third-rate pool halls throughout the city. One night he challenges the wrong sucker, another young hustler he meets in a waterfront dive. Although Eddie wins, four hoodlums grab Eddie, throw him into the men's room, and break both his thumbs. Once recovered, Eddie aligns himself with a coldblooded gambler, Bert Gordon, who agrees to arrange bigtime matches in return for 70 percent of the winnings. Accompanied by Sarah, Eddie and Bert travel to Louisville, Kentucky, where Eddie takes on Findlay, a millionaire playboy addicted to billiards. Though the trip ends in victory for Eddie, it ends in tragedy for Sarah. Badgered by the ruthless Bert, who demands complete dominion over his client, Sarah admits defeat and slashes her wrists with a razor. Shattered by the realization that his egotism has destroyed ... +


Newly arrived in New York from California is "Fast" Eddie Felson, a brash pool shark who makes his living hustling in billiard parlors around the country. Taking on unwary opponents, he allows them to win until the stakes are high enough; then he makes his killing and leaves town. Eddie has come to New York with his longtime crony and manager, Charlie Burns, to challenge Minnesota Fats, the undisputed champion pool player in the country. For 36 hours the two men battle, and, at first, game after game goes to Eddie. Then, filled with too much liquor and conceit, he eventually falls apart and ends up beaten and broke. Following the bout, he wanders into an all-night coffeeshop and picks up an alcoholic, disillusioned cripple named Sarah Packard. For want of anything better to do, he moves in with her and lives a day-to-day existence by hustling in third-rate pool halls throughout the city. One night he challenges the wrong sucker, another young hustler he meets in a waterfront dive. Although Eddie wins, four hoodlums grab Eddie, throw him into the men's room, and break both his thumbs. Once recovered, Eddie aligns himself with a coldblooded gambler, Bert Gordon, who agrees to arrange bigtime matches in return for 70 percent of the winnings. Accompanied by Sarah, Eddie and Bert travel to Louisville, Kentucky, where Eddie takes on Findlay, a millionaire playboy addicted to billiards. Though the trip ends in victory for Eddie, it ends in tragedy for Sarah. Badgered by the ruthless Bert, who demands complete dominion over his client, Sarah admits defeat and slashes her wrists with a razor. Shattered by the realization that his egotism has destroyed his one chance for happiness, Eddie returns to New York and again challenges Fats. Eddie outshoots, outmaneuvers, and outthinks his opponent until Fats finally concedes defeat. Victorious, Eddie denounces Bert, refuses to give him a cut of the winnings, and walks out of the pool room. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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