THE STING plays out its hoodwinks in 1936 Chicago, as two confidence men collect a crew of engagingly shady swindlers in an elaborate scheme to ‘sting’ a gangster out of a pile of loot. Audiences awash in dark fare took this clever, intricate caper to heart and the bank in 1973, making it the years biggest hit with a haul of $172,000,000. Critics likewise applauded, and the Oscars swooped down accordingly. *
The can’t-lose rematch of Paul Newman and Robert Redford saw ‘old pro’ Newman (at 48) allowing heir apparent Redford (37) somewhat of an edge in screen time, which the charming, underrated heartthrob worked into the sole Best Actor Oscar nomination of his six-decade career. They’re both in top form, as is co-star Robert Shaw, who had peer respect after laboring in cinema for 26 years, yet was familiar to audiences chiefly as a villain thanks to From Russia With Love and Battle Of The Bulge. At 46, this success (again a icily threatening meanie) eased him into a higher pay grade.
” I dunno know what to do with this guy, Henry. He’s an Irishman who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, and doesn’t chase dames.”
Directed by George Roy Hill, who knew just how to showcase his duo after guiding them in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, the $5,500,000 production has good period atmosphere in the costumes and art direction, and made a shrewd pick for music by way of Scott Joplin’s jaunty ragtime numbers, even though they pre-dated the story’s time period by a good thirty years. Besides being the biggest hit ever for both Newman and Redford, it nabbed the feat of putting seventy-year-old tunes back on the pop charts.
Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay (David S. Ward), Score (Marvin Hamlisch adapting), Film Editing, Art Direction and Costume Design. Along with Redford, it was nominated for Cinematography and Sound Mixing.**
Strong supporting cast: Ray Walston, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, Dana Elcar, Jack Kehoe, Dimitra Arliss, Robert Earl Jones, Charles Dierkop, Sally Kirkland. 129 minutes. Say, pal, I’m just a mug, but… next time someone tells you to put a half-million bucks on ‘Lucky Dan’…..
- *With a few exceptions like American Graffiti and The Three Musketeers, Harshness Ruled ’73: The Exorcist, Magnum Force, Walking Tall, Save The Tiger, High Plains Drifter, Papillon, Last Tango In Paris, Dillinger, Mean Streets, Electra-Glide In Blue, The Last Detail, Serpico, Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, Scarecrow, Soylent Green, The Wicker Man….
** No grift to The Sting, but I’d hustle American Graffiti for Picture, Director, Script, Editing, Score Adaptation, Sound Mixing, Cinematography and Paul LeMat’s ‘John Milner’ for Supporting Actor. I’d give completely ignored The Three Musketeers dohickeys for Costume Design and Art Direction. Got that off my vest.
As to the 1983 descendent The Sting II, it stinks.