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Monday, May 1, 2023

 MAY 2023

"The Sting" 
- Celebrating its 50th Anniversary -
By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Academy Award winning motion picture "The Sting," which forever solidified Paul Newman and Robert Redford as one of cinema's greatest duos.  At the time of its release and later at the Academy Awards (where it won seven Oscars, including Best Picture) it was immediately celebrated as pure fun and escapism at its cinematic best.  For a war weary nation embroiled in political scandal (i.e., The Vietnam War and Watergate) it offered a two-hour escape into the 1930s where two professional con artists (Newman and Redford) orchestrated a complex, elaborate scheme to swindle a mob boss (played by Robert Shaw).  "The Sting" is unusual in that every time one watches the film, there are nuances and details that emerge with each viewing that deepens the appreciation for the obvious loving care that went into crafting this work of pure entertainment.  What makes the film so satisfying with each viewing, is that the triple-twist ending makes one realize that it is the audience, along with the mob boss, who have been conned into a multi-layered, deceptive plot.   The finale leaves filmgoers surprised but satisfied to have witnessed such a delightful story play out into a conclusion that sparked conversation questioning what just happened!

If you are looking for a film that has a magical ending executed with style and daring, then "The Sting" is one you might want to add to your watch list.  With Newman, Redford plus Robert Shaw -- all at their best in playing the roguish lead characters -- is a stellar supporting cast that reads like a Who's Who of Hollywood (e.g., Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, Ray Walston, Harold Gould).  The film is presented in discrete or distinct sections with title cards that bear strong resemblance to the lettering and illustrations associated with The Saturday Evening Post.  The memorable soundtrack is Ragtime music featuring Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer."  Here are a few fun, but little known facts about "The Sting" that may engender further whimsical conversation among classic film fans.

> Jack Nicholson was offered the lead role but turned it down!
> The role of the mob boss was almost given to Richard Boone but instead went to Robert Shaw.
> Robert Shaw injured his leg playing handball before filming began.  Instead of withdrawing from the film, Shaw was encouraged to incorporate the limp into the portrayal of his character.  Thus the limp was authentic and added yet another signature detail to the tapestry of the film.

"The Sting" was the second and final on-screen pairing of Newman and Redford.  Their first film was "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" in 1969.  Given the enormous if not legendary status of both of these films, one more Newman-Redford pairing would have truly required a very special script, that regrettably never materialized.  As we celebrate the Golden Anniversary of "The Sting" perhaps we should be satisfied that the legendary film duo left us wanting more as they remain forever etched in our minds at the top of their craft.

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