Monday, June 6, 2011

Paul Newman: The Hustler, The Sting, The Verdict and other Classics

Inspired by the addtion of The Hustler (1961) to Netflix Watch Instantly last week, here is a collection of films starring Paul Newman.

The Hustler (Robert Rossen, US, 1961, 134 minutes)
Netflix: Paul Newman scores as pool shark "Fast Eddie" Felson, who tours the country hustling games -- even challenging reigning champion Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) -- in this brooding drama that explores the synergies between good and evil, love and desperation. The film won a pair of Oscars for its cinematography and art direction, while Newman and Gleason both earned Academy Award nominations for their performances. Piper Laurie co-stars. Netflix link.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the character Fast Eddie Felson, Newman also plays him in his sole Oscar-winning performance in Martin Scorsese's The Color of Money (1986).

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, US, 1958, 108 minutes)
Netflix: Members of an avaricious Southern clan scramble to curry favor with dying, wealthy patriarch Harvey "Big Daddy" Pollitt (Burl Ives) in this Oscar-nominated adaptation of playwright Tennessee Williams's sizzling stage drama. Paul Newman stars as alcoholic ex-football star Brick Pollitt, whose self-pity and drunken malice jeopardize not only his inheritance, but also his marriage to the seductive Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor). Netflix link.

The Long Hot Summer (Martin Ritt, US, 1958, 116 minutes)
Netflix: Director Martin Ritt combines two William Faulkner stories into a smoldering drama starring Paul Newman as Ben Quick, a wandering handyman who arrives in Frenchman's Bend, Miss., where menacing rumors about his past begin to circulate. Soon enough, the self-made town despot (Orson Welles) warms to the drifter and takes him under his wing, giving him a job at his store and setting him up with his daughter (Joanne Woodward). Netflix link.

Hud (Martin Ritt, US, 1963, 111 minutes)
Netflix: Martin Ritt successfully transforms a Larry McMurtry novel into a contemporary Western set on a Texas ranch where Cadillacs, cattle and transistor radios threaten to displace time-honored cowboy ways. Paul Newman stars as arrogant, rebellious farmhand Hud Bannon, who's constantly at odds with his old-school father, Homer (Melvyn Douglas, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar). Patricia Neal also won an Oscar for her role in the film. Netflix link.

Hombre (Martin Ritt, US, 1967, 110 minutes)
Netflix: More 1960s than 1860s, Hombre takes a hard look at racial injustice in the Old West. Paul Newman is a half-breed Indian shunned by his fellow -- white -- stagecoach passengers until a holdup forces them to trust him as he finds a way out of the desert. Frederic March and Barbara Rush co-star, with Richard Boone turning in one of his patented badass performances. Netflix link.  Note: This will leave Netflix Watch Instantly on June 30 (24 days after this post).

Sometimes a Great Notion (Paul Newman, US, 1971, 114 minutes)
Netflix: Paul Newman directs and stars in this rough-and-tumble drama about Hank Stamper, who is trying to keep his family's logging business afloat despite the complications caused by his gruff father, Henry (Henry Fonda), and ne'er-do-well younger brother, Leeland (Michael Sarrazin). While Leeland becomes romantically involved with Viv (Lee Remick), Hank's neglected wife, Hank fights back against the violent tactics employed by the striking local union  Netflix link.

The Sting (George Roy Hill, US, 1973, 129 minutes) 
Netflix: After rookie grifter Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) tracks down veteran flim-flam man Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) in 1930s Chicago, the duo plans to fleece a homicidal racketeer (Robert Shaw) through a phony racetrack scam involving a string of double and triple crosses. The Sting picked up seven Academy Awards, including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Directing (George Roy Hill) and Best Original Screenplay (David S. Ward). Netflix link.

For those who would like to see perhaps the most curious casting in a sequel to a major motion picture, check out The Sting II (1983), in which Jackie Gleason and Mac Davis play the same characters created by Newman and Redford.

Quintet (Robert Altman, US, 1979, 118 minutes)
Netflix: Essex (Paul Newman) struggles to survive in a bleak, frozen city of the future. Director Robert Altman's existential film pulls no punches in presenting a withering vision of a postapocalyptic world in which inhabitants of the city play a puzzling cat-and-mouse game called Quintet, with death awaiting the player who makes a misstep. Bibi Andersson, Fernando Rey, Vittorio Gassman and Nina Van Pallandt co-star in this chilling sci-fi thriller. Netflix link.

The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, US, 1982, 129 minutes)
Netflix: A washed-up, ambulance-chasing attorney (Paul Newman) gets a chance at redemption when his friend (Jack Warden) tosses him an open-and-shut medical malpractice case. But instead of accepting an easy cash settlement, he takes the powerful defendant to court. James Mason plays the opposing counsel, whom his legal adversary calls "The Prince of Darkness," in this courtroom drama from director Sidney Lumet. Netflix link.

This was also mentioned in my post on the films of Sidney Lumet, but is worth mentioning here as one of Newman's finest performances.

In the interest of completeness, Netflix Watch Instantly is also streaming From the Terrace (1960), Winning (1969), The Towering Inferno (1974), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994).  InstantWatcher currently lists Slap Shot (1977) as streaming, but that is incorrect (which is a shame, because I'm sure that would be one of the more popular titles in this post).

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