The Sting (1973)

PG | 127 or 129 mins | Comedy | December 1973

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HISTORY

On the first screen of the opening credits, the Universal Pictures company logo presented is a reproduction of the logo Universal used during the 1930s, a twirling crystal globe set against a black background with the name "Universal Pictures" appearing around the globe in raised, art deco-style letters. Following the logo, the names of Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Robert Shaw appear on the left-hand side of an illustration featuring their likenesses. Following the film's title and the producing and screenplay credits, a title card reading "The Players" appears, followed by individual photographs of the three actors, with their respective names and character names superimposed.
       After the three principals, actors Charles Durning through Dimitra Arliss are shown in a similar fashion, but with two photographs, side-by-side on each screen. In both the opening and ending cast credits, actor Robert Earl Jones's name is written as "RobertEarl Jones." Within the film, the story is divided into chapters that are announced by inserted art title cards. In order of appearance, the cards read: "The Set-Up," "The Hook," "The Tale," "The Wire," "The Shut-Out" and "The Sting."
       The title artwork used for the opening and closing credits and the inter-titles was created by Jaroslav Gebr. His sketches and lettering emulate the type of art work used on covers and as short story illustrations within the weekly magazine The Saturday Evening Post [ SEP ], which enjoyed the height of its popularity in the mid-1930s, the time period in which the film is set. This theme was also used in the picture’s key art, most notably in a sardonic pose of Redford and ... More Less

On the first screen of the opening credits, the Universal Pictures company logo presented is a reproduction of the logo Universal used during the 1930s, a twirling crystal globe set against a black background with the name "Universal Pictures" appearing around the globe in raised, art deco-style letters. Following the logo, the names of Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Robert Shaw appear on the left-hand side of an illustration featuring their likenesses. Following the film's title and the producing and screenplay credits, a title card reading "The Players" appears, followed by individual photographs of the three actors, with their respective names and character names superimposed.
       After the three principals, actors Charles Durning through Dimitra Arliss are shown in a similar fashion, but with two photographs, side-by-side on each screen. In both the opening and ending cast credits, actor Robert Earl Jones's name is written as "RobertEarl Jones." Within the film, the story is divided into chapters that are announced by inserted art title cards. In order of appearance, the cards read: "The Set-Up," "The Hook," "The Tale," "The Wire," "The Shut-Out" and "The Sting."
       The title artwork used for the opening and closing credits and the inter-titles was created by Jaroslav Gebr. His sketches and lettering emulate the type of art work used on covers and as short story illustrations within the weekly magazine The Saturday Evening Post [ SEP ], which enjoyed the height of its popularity in the mid-1930s, the time period in which the film is set. This theme was also used in the picture’s key art, most notably in a sardonic pose of Redford and Newman, dressed in character, appearing as if on the cover of SEP , over the tagline "...all it takes is a little Confidence." The film's souvenir program featured the same SEP -inspired art, adding the date "December 25 1936" as the fake magazine's issue date, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the film's 25 Dec 1973 opening. The pressbook for The Sting lists a running time of 129 minutes, and most reviews list either 129 or 127 minutes, but copyright records erroneously list a running time of 103 minutes.
       According to a 24 Nov 1972 DV news item, actor Richard Boone had been cast in the film in a major role. However, a Var column on 7 Feb 1973 noted that British actor Shaw had replaced Boone [in the role of "Doyle Lonnegan."] The item also noted that Universal Pictures had not given a reason for the change but had simply dropped Boone's name from the cast list and replaced it with Shaw's. Noted card specialist and author John Scarne was a technical advisor on the film, and some modern sources have stated that Scarne performed as Newman's hand double during the card shuffling scene on the train. A DV news item on 15 Jan 1973 reported that John Longenecker and Donald Paonessa would serve as AFI interns on the production, but Paonessa's participation has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Patricia Bratcher, Chuck Morrell and Guy Wray to the cast.
       As noted in the pressbook and other sources, The Sting was to be the first film of Bill/Phillips Productions, a company formed in Feb 1971 by Tony Bill with Michael and Julia Phillips, who were married at the time. However, another of their films, Steelyard Blues (1973, see above) actually went into production and was released first. The pressbook reported that screenwriter David S. Ward, who was a recent film school graduate, told Bill “the gist” of the story in late 1970, after which Bill encouraged him to complete the screenplay. Ward's first produced screenplay was for Steelyard Blues .
       Redford was the first actor approached, according to the pressbook, then Newman was brought on board, as well as director George Roy Hill, with whom the actors had worked in their 1969 hit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (see above). According to the pressbook and other contemporary sources, while most of The Sting was shot on the Universal lot, some location shooting was done in Chicago, including the sequence in which "Johnny Hooker" is being chased by "Lt. Wm. Snyder" to an "El" elevated train station and through a freight yard. That scene and a few others were shot at various Chicago locations, including Union Station, the Penn Central Freight Yards, the LaSalle Street Station and the Illinois Central Station. According to 17 Apr 1973 DV news item, the filming in Chicago marked the first Hollywood production in the city in two years due to the reluctance of then mayor Robert J. Daley to allow filming that would depict the city in a bad light.
       The pressbook noted that some of the El scenes were actually shot on the Universal backlot, where "a huge steel superstructure, 20 feet high and 250 feet long" served as a backdrop for many scenes. Los Angeles area locations used to emulate the historical setting included interiors and exteriors of the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, the Castle Green and the Commercial and Savings Bank in Pasadena and, in San Pedro, the Koppel Paint plant, which was used for the phony FBI headquarters. The film's period feel was enhanced not only by the costumes and art direction, but also by its editing and photography. Veteran cinematographer Robert Surtees used several period techniques that were popular in the 1930s, including the "iris shot" fadeout, in which the action closes in an ever decreasing cicle.
       The film's score was adapted by Marvin Hamlisch from the melodies of African-American ragtime music composer Scott Joplin (ca. 1867--1917). Although the onscreen credits only specify "Piano rags by Scott Joplin," the main theme music for The Sting was based on Joplin's "The Entertainer," written in 1902. Other Joplin tunes incorporated into the score include "Solace," "Gladiolus Rag," "Pineapple Rag (Pine Apple Rag)" and "Ragtime Dance," among others, many of which featured piano solos by Hamlisch. It is possible that Hamlisch also was the man whose voice is heard on the soundtrack just before the closing credits, giving the musical count "One, two--one, two, three," to start the end music.
       Although historically ragtime music was most popular prior to World War I, two decades before the film's 1936 setting, most critics and audiences alike were responsive to the charm of the melodies, which provided a musical backdrop and bridged the different parts of the story. In liner notes on the film's soundtrack album, Hill wrote that he decided to use Joplin's music after his son played one of the rags for him, then contacted his old friend Hamlisch to do the adaptations.
       The success of The Sting led to a revived appreciation of Joplin's music. Hamlisch's album The Entertainer , which featured the theme from The Sting , among other Joplin rags, was on Billboard magazine’s "Hot 100" list for over four months, peaking at number three in spring 1974, and jazz pianist Joshua Rifkin's album Piano Rags by Scott Joplin also ranked on the "Hot 100" at around the same time. In 1976, the Pulitzer Prize jury awarded Joplin a special, posthumous award "for his contributions to American music," which many scholars have attributed, at least partially, to the increased public awareness of Joplin's music precipitated by Hamlisch's adaptations for The Sting .
       As part of the film's publicity campaign, Universal produced a small souvenir booklet that gave an historical account of the world of the confidence artists. The booklet further outlined the various stages of "the big con," as practiced in the real world and fictionalized in The Sting . An extensive glossary of confidence game terms, many of which were used within the film, such as “mark,” “grifter” and “inside man,” was also provided, excerpted from the book The American Confidence Man by David W. Maurer. One of the film’s most memorable nods to the world of the conman was the gesture used throughout the montage, in which Gondorff gathers some of his old cohorts together for the big con. The gesture--brushing the side of the nose with the index finger to indicate discreet complicity--became an iconic symbol of the film. According to a 12 Mar 1973 DV news item, a novelization of Ward's screenplay for The Sting was to be written by Robert Weverka for paperback publication by Bantam Books. The novelization was published by Corgi in 1974 to coincide with the film’s wide release.
       While some critics considered the film too light, most were complimentary and predicted outstanding box-office appeal. The Newsweek review expressed a general consensus, stating: "Like its heroes, the film succeeds on charm and con....For all its charm, The Sting has a slightly stale, carefully crafted feel of a sure-fire sequel. But who can argue, when this lightweight delight is destined to make many millions..." One of the more complimentary reviews, by Judith Crist in New York , was entitled "Pure Honey," and went on to call the movie "pure gold, the kind of movie that dreams of sophisticated entertainment are made on." Many critics also mentioned the fact that the final plot twists of the story would also "sting" the audience. As the Var critic wrote, "In the final seconds, the audience realizes it has been had."
       The Sting was the highest grossing film of 1974, taking in more than $68,000,000 in the North American box office. According to a 31 Aug 1992 HR report on The Sting , by 30 Sep 1989, the film had grossed $151,491,774 worldwide and garnered a net profit of $63,632,842. Primarily due to the success of this film, in 1974 Redford became the top box-office star in the world, with Newman ranked second. Redford continued being the number one star in the world through 1977. The film won seven Academy Awards: for Best Picture, Direction, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Art Direction, Costume Design and Adapted Score. Additional Oscar nominations for the picture went to Surtees for Cinematograhy, to Robert Bertrand and Ronald Pierce for Sound and to Redford for Best Actor, his first nomination in any category and his only acting nomination. In addition to winning an Oscar for The Sting , Hamlisch won two more Oscars that year, for Original Score and for Best Song (shared with lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman) for The Way We Were (see below), making him the first person in history to win three Academy Awards in one night. Costume designer Edith Head's Academy Award marked the eighth and last of her career.
       In late 1974, a controversy erupted over Ward’s screenplay for The Sting . As reported in DV on 11 Oct 1974, David W. Maurer, then a professor emeritus at the University of Louisville, filed a complaint that his 1940 book The Big Con [revised and reprinted in 1974 under the title The American Confidence Man , and, as noted above, excerpted in the film's souvenir booklet], had provided, “in substantial part,” a basis for Ward’s screenplay for The Sting . As noted in many news items and feature articles from the late 1970s through the early 1980s, Universal made a financial settlement with Maurer in the amount of $350,000 [some sources reported $300,000]. However, when the matter was reviewed by a panel of writers organized by the Writer's Branch of the Academy, the panel concluded that Ward did not plagiarize from Maurer’s work, thus the screenwriter’s credit, and ultimately his Academy Award, would stand. According to a 1 Feb 1978 DV article, the WGA announced that, if Ward were to be sued by Universal’s insurer, Pacific Indemnity, for recovery of the money the company paid in the settlement, the WGA would "take an amicus position" and intervene in the case. However, it has not been determined that Pacific Indemnity ever tried to recoup the money from Ward.
       A 27 Aug 1979 feature article by Stephen Farber in New West , “Plagiarism or Coincidence?: Hollywood’s Battle for Ideas,” discussed the case of The Sting , along with several other plagiarism suits settled out-of-court by Hollywood studios, and charged that studios, such as Universal, were too quick to settle plagiarism suits for relatively small sums, rather than going through lengthy and expensive court battles, even if the cases lacked merit. The article noted, as did some other sources, that two of the writers nominated for the Academy Award in the same category as Ward, Steve Shagan and Jack Rose, had requested that the WGA and AMPAS review the matter soon after Maurer brought his charges to light.
       In a lengthy feature article about Ward published in LAT on 21 Feb 1982, the screenwriter charged that the book written by Maurer, who had died the previous year, was only one of many historical references he used to research his screenplay for The Sting , but the entire screenplay was original. Ward also asserted that Universal’s “nuisance” settlement to Maurer was ill-advised and led to many years of bad feeling and social ostracism for him within Hollywood. Several LAT letters to the editor, including one by Shagan, disputed a few charges within the article, but corroborated the main argument, that Ward did not plagiarize Maurer’s book.
       A different plagiarism lawsuit was initiated in May 1976 when Followay Productions sued Ward, Bill, Zanuck, Brown, Michael and Julia Phillips, Universal Pictures and its parent company, MCA, Inc., for $60,000,000 general damages and $50,000,000 exemplary damages. The Followay suit also sought an injunction against Universal from selling or otherwise marketing The Sting , alleging that Followay had purchased the motion picture and television rights to Maurer’s book in 1952. On 6 Dec 1976, Los Angeles Superior Court judge Jerry Pacht dismissed a similar suit, stating that it was a matter for the federal courts, in which Followay had already filed a suit. Pacht also ruled that, in any case, Followay did not have exclusive rights to The Big Con and thus could not make a claim “to exclusive rights to make a film based on the novel." The disposition of the federal lawsuit has not been determined.
       As reported in a 22 Apr 1981 Var article, Newman and his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, filed a suit in Los Angeles Superior Court for a refund of state income taxes on his wages and profits for The Sting . The crux of the suit, which had ramifications for many in the entertainment industry, involved the length of time that Newman, who resided in Connecticut, spent in California in 1973 and how the state determined the tax rate for non-resident performers. According to the suit, Newman worked no more than thirty days in the state that year, and thus his California income tax assessment would be at a 39% rate, not the 89% that he paid the state. The couple earlier had applied for a tax refund from California’s Franchise Tax Board based on this argument, but their petition was unanswered.
       The resolution of Newman and Woodward's suit, which went through the courts for a number of years, was reported in a lengthy LAT article on 5 Jul 1989, which delved into the ramifications for all other non-resident actors who occasionally worked in California. As the article reported, on 1 Jun 1989, the California Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision that effectually equated “non-resident actors and actresses…and other entertainment personnel with professional athletes in terms of how state income tax is determined.”
       On 1 May 1985, LAT reported that Newman and Hill had filed a lawsuit against Universal and MCA seeking over $600,000 in lost revenue from video sales for The Sting and Slap Shot , which the actor and director charged had been fraudulently withheld from them by the studio. The pair also sought $2,000,000 in punitive damages and charged that Universal’s accounting practices were an industry-wide problem. A 7 Apr 1987 LAT article reported that this suit was rejected by a Federal appeals court because their claim "could not support an antitrust suit."
       In 1977, Universal re-released The Sting , beginning with a 28 Apr booking at the Radio City Music Hall in New York, followed by various May bookings across North America, including a 27 May opening in Los Angeles. When the film had its first television showing on 5 Nov 1978, it was enormously successful, earning an audience share that went as high as sixty-one percent in markets such as New York and Los Angeles.
       In 1983, Universal released The Sting II , a sequel written by Ward and directed by Jeremy Kagan. Replacing Newman and Redford, who reportedly passed on the project, were Jackie Gleason as Gondorff (called Fargo instead of Henry), Mac Davis as Hooker (called Jake instead of Johnny). Shaw, who died in 1978, was replaced by Oliver Reed as Lonnegan. In the sequel, Lonnegan attempts to get even with Gondorff and Hooker at the same time that they are working on another con. Prior to Newman's death from cancer in 2008, he and Redford often publicly expressed interest in working together a third time if the right property could be found, but by the time Newman announced his retirement from acting in 2007 they had not made another film together. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Dec 1973
p. 4650.
Box Office
12 Aug 1974.
---
Box Office
21 Jan 1977.
---
Daily Variety
24 Nov 1972.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jan 1973.
---
Daily Variety
12 Mar 1973.
---
Daily Variety
17 Apr 1973.
---
Daily Variety
22 Feb 1974.
---
Daily Variety
11 Oct 1974.
---
Daily Variety
7 Dec 1976.
---
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1978.
---
Daily Variety
7 Nov 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 1973
p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 1973,
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 1973
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 1973
p. 3, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Dec 1973
Calendar, p. 26.
Los Angeles Times
21 Feb 1982
Calendar, pp. 32-33.
Los Angeles Times
28 Feb 1982
Calendar, p. 99.
Los Angeles Times
1 May 1985.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Apr 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Jun 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Jul 1989.
---
New West
27 Aug 1979
p. 55, 57-59.
New York
Dec 1973.
---
New York Times
26 Dec 1973
p. 60.
New York Times
30 Dec 1973
Section II, p. 1.
New York Times
20 Jan 1974
Section II, p. 1.
New York Times
3 Apr 1974
p. 36.
New York Times
29 Sep 1974
Section II, p. 15.
New York Times
8 Dec 1974
Section II, p. 15.
Newsweek
17 Dec 1973
p. 92.
The Saturday Evening Post
Apr 1974.
---
Variety
7 Feb 1973.
---
Variety
12 Dec 1973
p. 16.
Variety
8 Dec 1976.
---
Variety
22 Apr 1981.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Bill/Phillips Production of a George Roy Hill Film
A Bill/Phillips Production of a George Roy Hill Film; A Richard Zanuck/David Brown Presentation
A Bill/Phillips Production of a George Roy Hill Film; A Zanuck/Brown Presentation
A George Roy Hill Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir trainee
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Best boy
Lamp op
Lamp op
Lamp op
Lamp op
Key grip
2d key grip
Dolly grip
Company grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
Title artwork
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Leadman
Standby painter
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost
Men`s cost
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Mus adpt
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles & opt eff
Title & graphic des
Spec photog eff
Spec eff man
MAKEUP
Cosmetics by
Key makeup man
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting dir
Casting dir
Tech consultant
Scr supv
Unit pub
Craft services
Transportation capt
Asst to George Roy Hill
AFI prod intern
SOURCES
MUSIC
"The Entertainer," "Solace," "Pineapple Rag (Pine Apple Rag)," "Gladiolus Rag" and other rags by Scott Joplin.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1973
Premiere Information:
New York and Los Angeles openings: 25 December 1973
Production Date:
22 January--mid April 1973 in Los Angeles and Chicago
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures
Copyright Date:
25 December 1973
Copyright Number:
LP43548
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
127 or 129
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
23757
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In September 1936, in Joliet, Illinois, street grifter Johnny Hooker, his partner, Luther Coleman, and their cohort, the Erie Kid, use a bait and switch technique to con a man out of $11,000. Unknown to Hooker and Luther, the man, Mottola, is a money runner for the Chicago arm of New York Irish-American mobster Doyle Lonnegan's empire. After agreeing to meet later to split the money at Luther's apartment, Hooker, who prefers women and gambling to hard work, loses his $5,000 share on one turn of a crooked roulette wheel. That night, when Hooker goes to Luther's place, the older, African-American Luther scolds him for being foolish with his money and reveals that he finally has enough to quit. Although Hooker wants to keep working with Luther, Luther says that Hooker has the talent to move from low-level street grifting to the more sophisticated "big con" and suggests that Hooker go to Chicago to meet Henry Gondorff, the best big con artist in the business. As the Erie Kid and Hooker walk home from Luther's, Lt. Wm. Snyder, a bullying bunko squad policeman, stops them and roughs up Hooker, telling him that he has heard about the day's score against one of Lonnegan's men and wants a $2,000 cut. Hooker reluctantly hands Snyder $2,000 in cash, after which Snyder leaves. When the Erie Kid asks where he got the money, Hooker sheepishly reveals that it is counterfeit. Now worried about Luther's safety, Hooker calls the apartment, then rushes over when there is no answer. As Hooker and the Erie Kid arrive at Luther's, they find that he has been beaten and ... +


In September 1936, in Joliet, Illinois, street grifter Johnny Hooker, his partner, Luther Coleman, and their cohort, the Erie Kid, use a bait and switch technique to con a man out of $11,000. Unknown to Hooker and Luther, the man, Mottola, is a money runner for the Chicago arm of New York Irish-American mobster Doyle Lonnegan's empire. After agreeing to meet later to split the money at Luther's apartment, Hooker, who prefers women and gambling to hard work, loses his $5,000 share on one turn of a crooked roulette wheel. That night, when Hooker goes to Luther's place, the older, African-American Luther scolds him for being foolish with his money and reveals that he finally has enough to quit. Although Hooker wants to keep working with Luther, Luther says that Hooker has the talent to move from low-level street grifting to the more sophisticated "big con" and suggests that Hooker go to Chicago to meet Henry Gondorff, the best big con artist in the business. As the Erie Kid and Hooker walk home from Luther's, Lt. Wm. Snyder, a bullying bunko squad policeman, stops them and roughs up Hooker, telling him that he has heard about the day's score against one of Lonnegan's men and wants a $2,000 cut. Hooker reluctantly hands Snyder $2,000 in cash, after which Snyder leaves. When the Erie Kid asks where he got the money, Hooker sheepishly reveals that it is counterfeit. Now worried about Luther's safety, Hooker calls the apartment, then rushes over when there is no answer. As Hooker and the Erie Kid arrive at Luther's, they find that he has been beaten and thrown to his death from the window. When Luther's wife Alva arrives, Hooker tries to comfort her but the Erie Kid makes him leave for his own protection. A short time later, Hooker goes to Chicago and finds Henry living at a brothel over a carousel run by Henry's lady friend Billie. Disgusted to find Henry sleeping off a hangover, Hooker puts him under a cold shower to sober up, then tells him that he wants to run a big con on Lonnegan for what he did to Luther. Even though federal agents have been after Henry for a big con that went bad several years before, and he warns Hooker that revenge is never enough, Henry agrees to help. Soon he gathers some of his old cohorts, who are eager to join in after what happened to Luther. A short time later, while Henry, Hooker and some of their inner circle, Kid Twist, J. J. Singleton and Eddie Niles, gather in a back room at Billie's place to discuss strategies, an angry Snyder comes to the brothel looking for someone passing counterfeit bills, but does not reveal Hooker's name. After discussing how to sting the ruthless Lonnegan, who neither drinks nor chases women, J. J. reveals that his only vice is devotion to the private, high stakes poker games held every few weeks on the Century Limited train from New York to Chicago. After J. J. adds that Lonnegan cheats during the games, which are held every three weeks, Henry decides that they will use Lonnegan's greed against him by setting up an old con, "the wire." The set-up is that “the mark” is lured into “past-posting” a large bet for a horse race that has already been run, but for which the results are briefly held back. Sometime later, as Kid sets up the phony bookie parlor and gathers a large crew in Chicago, Henry, Hooker, J. J. and Billie board the Century Limited in New York. After Billie deftly lifts Lonnegan's wallet to give Henry seed money, Henry gives a large tip to the conductor to assure that he gets into the poker game. With J. J.’s stacked deck, Henry enters the game, using the name “Shaw,” then, while feigning drunken, boorish behavior, out-cheats Lonnegan. Lonnegan cannot cover his $15,000 loss because his wallet is gone, enraging him to the point that he wants to kill Henry. Because the train is coming into the station, Lonnegan’s faithful bodyguard, Floyd, talks him out of an immediate killing, then Hooker, pretending to be a Shaw underling named “Kelly,” tells him that he has a better way to get even. Lonnegan insists that Hooker drive off with him from the station, and during the ride, Hooker pretends to be a fellow Irish American raised in poverty in New York. He says that he wants to take over Shaw’s bookmaking operation and arranges to discuss details with Lonnegan at a drugstore the next afternoon. Before their meeting, Lonnegan checks in with Combs, his Chicago lieutenant, and orders Combs to hire the notorious Solino to kill Hooker, not knowing that Kelly and Hooker are one and the same. When Lonnegan and Floyd meet Hooker later at the drugstore, Hooker gives Lonnegan $2,000, asking him to place the bet at Shaw's bookie parlor across the street immediately after receiving a phone call telling him the name of the horse and race, and promising that there will be much bigger winnings later. After answering the phone call from Kid, Lonnegan goes to make the bet. While the crew members play various parts in the bookie parlor, over the loud speaker, J. J. calls the race, which results in a big win for Lonnegan. When Hooker goes to Lonnegan’s hotel the next day, Lonnegan guesses that the bet was part of a past-posting scheme. Hooker then tells him that he has a contact in the Western Union office who receives the race results, but delays sending them on for a few minutes to give time to place a bet on the winning horse. Hearing this, Lonnegan insists upon meeting the contact the next day. After leaving Lonnegan, Hooker calls Kid with the news of the unplanned meeting, and as he hangs up the phone, Snyder breaks the glass on the phone booth wall with a gun, cutting Hooker, who runs away and eventually loses Snyder. Back at Billie’s, Henry is annoyed that Hooker had not told him earlier that Snyder was after him and scolds Hooker never to treat his friends like marks. The next day, Kid and J. J. take over the office of a real Western Union manager by pretending to be painters, then Kid meets with Lonnegan and Hooker, reassuring Lonnegan so skillfully that Lonnegan insists that he be their sole financial backer and is willing, after one more test, to take "short odds" for a big win. Meanwhile, Snyder is picked up in a diner by two men flashing federal badges, then taken to the secret headquarters of F.B.I. Agent Polk. Polk tells Snyder that he has gotten word of a big sting operation involving Henry, whom Polk has been after for years. He adds that Henry is being assisted by Hooker, and Polk wants Snyder to pick him up so that the F.B.I. can use him to catch Henry. Back at the bookie parlor, when Lonnegan tries to make his bet, he is deliberately shut out at the betting window because Henry is low on money. Even though he cannot make the bet, the race results convince him that the scheme is foolproof. Calling "Kelly" aside, he insists that the next day, he will place a $500,000 bet for at least four-to-one odds and orders him to make sure that he gets to the window on time. That night, as the men prepare for their roles on the final day, Hooker returns to his room to find Snyder waiting for him. Although he tries to get away, Snyder takes him at gunpoint to Polk's office. There Polk bullies Hooker, first by suggesting that he will be charged with counterfeiting then, because Hooker still refuses to cooperate, by threatening to put Luther's widow, Alva, in prison for a series of petty con jobs. Not wanting to hurt Alva or Luther’s children, Hooker agrees to cooperate with Polk, but only if Polk lets the sting run its complete course. Late that night, after a waitress who had helped Hooker earlier goes home, Hooker follows her to her boardinghouse room and, when he says that he is lonely and just wants to talk, she lets him spend the night. Unknown to them, they are being observed by a black gloved gunman in a nearby building. The next morning, when Hooker awakens, the waitress is gone. At first he thinks that she has stolen his wallet, but after finding nothing missing, he get dressed, then calls Polk to tell him everything is ready. After noticing that the waitress is not at the diner where he has breakfast, Hooker goes out into the alley and sees her walking toward him. Just then, a shot hits her in the head and she falls over, dead. Hooker is terrified until the gloved gunman runs over and shows him that the waitress had been holding a gun with a silencer. Dragging Hooker away, the gunman explains that Henry had asked him to look out for Hooker and that the waitress was actually Loretta Solino, a professional killer whom Lonnegan had hired. Meanwhile, in the bookie parlor, Billie and J. J. scour Western Union tapes trying to find the right race and horse for the final bet. At the same time, Polk informs Snyder that they have received a tip that the mark is a wealthy New Yorker and orders Snyder to take the mark away as soon as the arrests are made so that he will not be there when the press inevitably arrive. Now, in the drugstore, when Lonnegan answers the phone, Kid tells him to "place it on Lucky Dan." Lonnegan then rushes to bet his $500,000. Henry feigns protest over such a large bet, but when Lonnegan calls him a coward, Henry says that he can cover it. As J. J. starts to call the race, Kid sits down next to Lonnegan, who assures him that he put the money down to win. Kid immediately pretends to be shocked, squealing that he said to "place" the money because Lucky Dan is not going to win, he is going to place second. As Lonnegan rushes to the window demanding to change his bet, Polk, Snyder and their men break into the room with drawn guns. After Polk turns to Hooker to say that he did "OK" and can now go, Henry angrily takes out his gun and shoots Hooker in the stomach, after which Polk shoots Henry. Polk then orders Snyder to take out the stunned Lonnegan, who is pulled away over protests about his lost $500,000. After Lonnegan and Snyder leave, Polk smiles and says "OK, Henry, all clear," prompting Henry and Hooker to get up and everyone to laugh. Thanking Polk, really a conman named Hickey, for his help, Henry hugs Billie goodbye and starts to leave. He asks Hooker if it is "enough" and Hooker laughingly responds, "No, but it's close." Hooker then decides to leave with Henry instead of waiting for his cut of the money because he would only blow it. +

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

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