Quite clearly designed to exploit the successful teaming of Paul Newman and Robert Redford in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, George Roy Hill’s confidence trickster comedy The Sting, reunited the pair in a twisty 1930s tale of bluff and double-bluff.
Set in post-Depression Chicago, the movie is a self-conscious re-creation of a past based less on reality than on books, movies and television. That it also happened to be released in the middle of a nostalgia boom did not hurt its performance at the box-office.
Johnny Hooker (Redford) is initially partnered with Robert Earl Jones who is killed early in the film by big-time gangster Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). Big-time con man Henry Gondorff (Newman) is down on his luck and staying in a brothel when Hooker finds him.
The remainder of the movie deals with a revenge plot to even the score – although this is done by extracting money rather than blood (it hurts the bad guy more!).
As befits a story of deceit and double-cross, the plot’s poker-faced elaborations of bluff and double-bluff often catch out the audience as much as some of the characters.
The card game on the once-famous New York to Chicago train The Twentieth Century, and the elaborate build-up to the film’s pivotal scene, both carry a few surprises and shock waves for the unwary.
The musical arrangements of Marvin Hamlisch immortalised the hitherto little-known piano rags of Scott Joplin.
The movie won the Best Film Oscar and George Roy Hill took home the Best Director award.
Robert Earl Jones
Lt. Wm. Snyder
FBI Agent Polk
George Roy Hill