Paul Leonard Newman was born in January of 1925, the second son of Arthur and Theresa Newman in Cleveland, Ohio. The Newman's were a well-to-do family and Paul grew up in a nice home in Shaker Heights. Newman's father was the owner of a highly successful sporting goods store. Paul's mother and his uncle Joe's interest in creative arts rubbed off on him.
By 1950, the 25 year old Newman had graduated high school, been kicked out of Ohio University for unruly behavior, served three years in the Navy during World War II as a radio operator, graduated from Ohio's Kenyon College, married his first wife, Jackie, and had his first child, Scott. 1950 was also the year that Paul's father died. When he became successful in later years, Newman said if he had any regrets it would be that his father wasn't around to see it. He brought Jackie back to Shaker Heights and he ran his father's sporting goods store for a short period. Then, knowing that wasn't the career path he wanted to take, he moved Jackie and Scott to New Haven, Connecticut where he would attend Yale University's School of Drama. While doing a play there, Paul was spotted by two agents who invited him to come to New York City to pursue a career as a professional actor.
After moving to New York, Paul acted in guest spots for various television shows and in 1953 came a big break. He got the part as an understudy of the lead role in the successful Broadway play Picnic. Through this play is how he met actress Joanne Woodward, who was also an understudy in the play. While they got on very well and there was a strong attraction, Paul was married and his second child, Susan, was born that year. During this time Newman was also accepted into the much admired and popular New York Actor's Studio, although he wasn't technically auditioning.
In 1954 a film Paul was very reluctant to do was released. It was called The Silver Chalice (1954). To this day, he his still embarrassed about the film and revels in making fun of it. He immediately wanted to return to the stage and performed in The Desperate Hours. In 1956, Newman got the chance to redeem himself in the film world by doing Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and critics praised his performance. In 1957, with a handful of films to his credit, he was cast in The Long, Hot Summer (1958) co-starring none other than Joanne Woodward. During the shooting of this film, they realized they were meant to be together and by now, so did Paul's wife Jackie. After Jackie gave Paul a divorce, he and Joanne married in Las Vegas in January of 1958. They went on to have three daughters together and raised them in Westport, Connecticut. In 1959 Paul received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). The 1960's would bring Paul Newman into superstar status as he became one of the most popular actors of the decade and garnered three more Best Actor Oscar nominations for The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963) and Cool Hand Luke (1967). In 1968 his debut directorial effort Rachel, Rachel (1968) was given good marks and although the film and Joanne Woodward were nominated for Oscars, Newman was not nominated for Best Director. He did, however, win a Golden Globe for his direction. 1969 would bring the popular screen duo Paul Newman and Robert Redford together for the first time when Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) was released. It was a box office smash. Throughout the 1970's, Newman would have hits and misses from such popular films as The Sting (1973) and The Towering Inferno (1974) to lesser known films as The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) to a now cult classic Slap Shot (1977). After the death of his only son, Scott, in 1978, Newman's personal life and film choices moved in a different direction. His acting work in the 1980's and on is what is often most praised by critics today. He became more at ease with himself and it was evident in The Verdict (1982) for which he received his 6th Best Actor Oscar nomination and in 1987 finally received his first Oscar for The Color of Money (1986). Friend and director of Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Robert Wise accepted the award on Newman's behalf as he did not attend the ceremony. Films were not the only thing on his mind during this period. A passionate race car driver since the early 1970's, Newman would become co-owner of Newman-Haas racing in 1982 and also founded Newman's Own, a successful food company he built from the ground up in which all the proceeds go to charity. He would also start The Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, an organization for terminally ill children.
He is as well known today for his philanthropic ways and highly successful business ventures as he his for his legendary actor status. Now in his 80s, Newman enjoys a near 50-year marriage to Joanne in Connecticut, their main residence since moving away from the bright lights of Hollywood in 1960, still attends races, is very much involved in his charitable organizations and in 2006 opened a restaurant called Dressing Room, which helps out the Westport Country Playhouse, a place the Newman's take great pride in. In 2007 he made some headlines when he said he was losing his invention and confidence in his acting abilities and that acting is "pretty much a closed book for me." Whether he's on the screen or not, Paul Newman remains synonymous with the anti-heroism of the 1960s and 1970s cinema and rebellious nature his characters so often embodied.
Paul Newman passed away on 26 September 2008 after along battle with cancer.
To Joanne, his children and friends we send our heartfelt condolences.
The Sting (1973)
When a mutual friend is killed by a mob boss, two con men, one experienced and one young try to get even by pulling off the big con on the mob boss. The story unfolds with several twists and last minute alterations
Paul Newman ... Henry Gondorff
Robert Redford ... Johnny Hooker
Robert Shaw ... Doyle Lonnegan
Charles Durning ... Lt. Wm. Snyder
Ray Walston ... J.J. Singleton
Eileen Brennan ... Billie
Harold Gould ... Kid Twist
John Heffernan ... Eddie Niles
Dana Elcar ... F.B.I. Agent Polk
Jack Kehoe ... Erie Kid
Dimitra Arliss ... Loretta
Robert Earl Jones ... Luther Coleman (as Robertearl Jones)
James Sloyan ... Mottola (as James J. Sloyan)
Charles Dierkop ... Floyd (Bodyguard)
Lee Paul ... Bodyguard
Director: George Roy Hill
Codecs: DivX / MP3
Runtime: 129 mins
This film deserved every Oscar thrown at it. It looks good, it's funny, it's extremely complex but doesn't dwell on the fact for a moment: if you can spot the twists, you haven't got time to sit back smugly as they pop up - everything rushes on. The acting's good as is the story, one carrying the other. I can't think of a movie where people so obviously had as much fun - maybe (Soderbergh's) Ocean's Eleven, or even Some Like It Hot? The soundtrack is brilliant too, contemporaneous Joplin rags evoking the time and its contradictions artlessly.
The bit that raises this film the one notch higher though is a short, central sequence, in which the music plays as high profile a part as any character or narrative aside. It's the night before The Sting and Redford is drawn to the drugstore girl who's trying to leave town. Perfectly framed by the bittersweetest of the blues/rags he asks her out for a drink - revealing his vulnerability for the first time in a movie where everybody's pretending to be someone else: 'It's 2 o'clock in the morning and I don't know nobody.' Despite all the caper and thrill of grifting all he wants is what we all want. It's a rich, compassionate heart to a virtuosic piece of film-making. 9.5/10
The fix is in, the odds are set, and the boys are ready to play for the big time, both on the screen and behind the camera in this breezy, endlessly entertaining movie classic.
Robert Redford is small-time hustler Johnny Hooker, happy to play the marks in Joliet until the murder of his mentor pushes him to go up against the nastiest mug in Chicago, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw.) Hooker'd rather ice Lonnegan outright, but will settle for a big con with the help of a slightly wobbly but game scammer named Henry Gondorff, played as only Paul Newman can.
Newman and Redford, along with director George Roy Hill, had a lot riding on this pony, given it was a follow-up to their earlier "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid." To measure up, they had to produce nothing short of another classic. And so they did. "The Sting" won the Best Picture Oscar in 1973, and remains the sentimental favorite among many in choosing between the two films.
Comparing "The Sting" to "Butch Cassidy" is kind of overdone sport, and tempers, as Lonnegan would say, run hot. But you can see why "The Sting" worked as well as it did by looking at how the director and the stars played it differently within the same basic framework as "Butch Cassidy." Newman and Redford are again outlaws and underdogs. Period detail abounds here as it did with "Butch Cassidy," and there's another memorable score amid the proceedings, Scott Joplin rags modernized by Marvin Hamlisch. The score even produced another hit, "The Entertainer," to compare with "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head."
What's different about "The Sting," and what makes it such a classic in its own right, is the way the stars service the plot. In "Butch Cassidy," Newman and Redford's comradeship was the story. Here, the chemistry between the two actors is minimized in favor of spinning a yarn with enough red herrings to feed the Swedish navy. The tale here is better than "Butch Cassidy," which is a more elegiac film with grander cinematography and funnier set pieces. "The Sting" is an edge-of-your-seat caper flick from beginning to end.
You can't really call "The Sting" a comedy. Though there are many laughs, especially when Newman hooks Shaw during a poker game, Hill won't let the audience relax enough for that. What this is is a con game, played on the audience, designed not to cheat but entertain by means of clever hoodwinking and constant misdirection plays.
You'll get no spoilers from me. This is one worth sitting through with no expectations. Five gets you ten you'll enjoy Newman and Redford, and a terrific supporting cast (one advantage over "Butch Cassidy") that includes Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, Dana Elcar, Harold Gould, and Mr. Hand himself, Ray Walston. There's another familiar face from "Butch Cassidy," Charles Dierkop, Flat Nose Curry in "Butch Cassidy" and Lonnegan's right hand here. The best performance may be Robert Shaw's; he exudes menace aplenty but some humanity, too, when he takes Hooker under his wing after learning he came from the same hard streets of Five Points Lonnegan sprang from.
Terrific period detail, too. The dialogue is great and feels real in its Runyonesque way, while the cons are elaborate and logically played out. Watching this a second time is especially fun because once you know how the plot goes down, you find yourself catching clues you missed the first time, and enjoying the film even more for them.
Why didn't Newman and Redford team up again? Certainly there was another good movie for them to partner up in, but as Gondorff would have put it, only chumps don't quit when they're ahead.
Newman was again teamed with director George Roy Hill and Robert Redford, and the two stars again played outlaws who are basically easy-going and human, and whose criminal exploits are comically engaging…
Here the setting is Chicago in 1936… Henry Gondorff (Newman), a well-known, slight1y aging con artist, is hiding from the law, but he comes out of retirement to teach small-time hustler Johnny Hooker (Redford) the "Big Con." With the assistance of a large group of amiable crooks, the two work out an elaborate scheme to cheat an important racketeer, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), out of $500,000.
Unlike "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," the film is inordinately complicated, and has many twists, turns and surprises… It is actually one con game after another, with the audience tricked as well as the characters… The steps in the swindle fall neatly into place in the manner of television's 'Mission: Impossible,' although once we think about the plot, it makes little sense… But we're not meant to think; "The Sting" is designed, and works extremely well, as clever entertainment…
Gondorff, like Butch, is the "brains" of the outfit, but he is unmistakably experienced and professional, and has little need for reassurance… In fact, Hooker, who is somewhat childlike and naive, is actually closer to Butch… He also shares Butch's tendency toward idealism: his purpose in the scheme is to avenge a friend's death, whereas Gondorff does it simply because "it seems worthwhile."
The pair have almost a father-son relationship (Gondorff continually calls Hooker "kid"), which recalls not so much the Butch-Sundance friendship as the many films in which an older man breaks a novice into a profession… Of course, Newman is too old and Redford too young for such a relationship, but the film is not intended as a meaningful character study that can hold up under analysis…
Both actors are constantly charming, but neither is required to do much serious acting… Newman's underplaying begins to look like posing rather than performing… He does have one lively, rather funny scene—a poker game in which Gondorff and Lonnegan try to out-cheat each other… To annoy Lonnegan, whom he wants to provoke into a larger swindle, Gondorff pretends to be drunk, speaks crudely, belches, deliberately mispronounces his opponent's name, and wipes his nose with a necktie Lonnegan has given him…
Perhaps it was the Newman-Redford team that made "The Sting" popular, and Newman alone may have difficulty drawing audiences, but one thing is certain: In fifty one years of film acting, Newman has become one of the screen's most magnetic stars… Even today the very mention of his name evokes an aura of moody rebelliousness, rugged individualism, cool detachment and, above all, overpowering sex appeal… And he has created more memorable characters than have most actors in much longer periods of time… At least four—"The Hustler," "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "Butch Cassidy"—are so well-known, so indelibly impressed on the public consciousness, that they stand among the immortals of the screen…
"The Sting" received ten Academy Award nominations—more than any other Newman film…
* It was just prior to Elizabeth Taylor's presentation of the Best Picture Oscar for this film that the streaker Robert Opel darted across the stage as David Niven was introducing her. It was this incident (among others) that inspired singer Ray Stevens to write the song "The Streak" that went to the top of the US charts the month after the awards. Incidentally, Opel was found murdered in his San Francisco gallery in 1979.
* Robert Shaw injured his ankle and incorporated the resulting limp into his performance.
* David S. Ward got the idea for this movie when he was working on the script for Steelyard Blues (1973), which includes a pickpocketing scene. Researching this, Ward found himself reading about con artists. Ward had shown the other screenplay to Tony Bill, so he now gave him an outline of this story. Bill liked it immediately and brought in Julia Phillips and Michael Phillips; the three then produced both films. Ward wrote the script with Robert Redford in mind as Hooker, but Redford initially turned the part down. Even after changing his mind, he didn't expect the movie to be a hit. Robert Shaw got the part of Lonnegan only after Richard Boone and another actor had declined it. George Roy Hill saw the screenplay by accident and asked for the director's job. He routinely showed his projects to Paul Newman, and Newman was pleased to join this one. Hill wanted to film the picture on location, but Henry Bumstead was adamant that it would be much too hard to get the period appearance right; for example, things like lane markings on the streets. In the end, the only location shooting was a few days' worth in Chicago and Los Angeles; most of the exteriors were filmed on Universal's back lot.
* According to costume designer Edith Head's biography, Redford and Newman, both of whom have blue eyes, wanted their shirts to be blue in order to emphasize their eyes. As a compromise, Head outfitted each man in blue in alternating scenes. Unfortunately, although it is an attractive story, it's a complete myth. A simple viewing of the film reveals the truth. Newman is never outfitted in blue in the whole film. He is first seen in a white vest in the brothel scenes. On the train he alternates between a brown striped shirt and a white one, which may or may not be a continuity error. From then until the end of the film, he is seen exclusively in a dinner jacket and white shirt. Redford wears a blue shirt on a couple of occasions, but even this doesn't really fit with this oddly persistent legend.
* Redford's character (Johnny Hooker) is supposedly named after blues legend John Lee Hooker.
* The score of the film consists of Scott Joplin ragtime compositions, which were composed between 1900 and 1910. Although The Sting (1973) helped bring Joplin's ragtime back into American popular culture, they actually predate the period of the story by 25 years.
* Technical advisor John Scarne doubled for Paul Newman's hands in the film. It was he who did all of the card manipulations and deck switching in the film. It would have taken a long time for someone to be able to master all of the card routines shown.
* "The Big Con" by David W. Maurer, originally published in 1940 and reissued in 1999, served as the source for this picture.
* Characters Henry Gondorff, JJ Singleton, Kid Twist and Eddie Niles have names similar to genuine con artists of the first quarter of the twentieth century, whose exploits are detailed in Maurer's "The Big Con".
* Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley had refused for two years to allow any filming in the city if it was depicted negatively, but allowed the producers of this film to shoot there for three days.
* Writer David S. Ward taped a five-minute pitch of the project, but refused to reveal the ending until the producers read the entire script.
* Jack Nicholson turned down the role of Johnny Hooker before Robert Redford changed his mind and decided to play it.
* The movie was filmed on the backlot of Universal studios and the diner in which Hooker meets Lonnegan is the same diner interior used in Back to the Future (1985) in which Marty McFly first meets his father and calls Doc Brown.
* First Universal Studios film to win the Best Picture Oscar since All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).
* The movie is based on the real-life exploits of grifter brothers Charley and Fred Gondorf, whose experiences culminated in a scam similar to the one shown in the film, known in 1914 as "the wire" or "the big store." Unlike the movie, however, the actual "mark" was more than happy to testify against Charley Gondorf, the front man of the scam, and he spent time in Sing Sing, as did his younger brother a year later for running another scam. Both served a few years and were released. As late as 1924, when Charley was 65 and Fred 60, they were still active, and running new scams.
* Robert Redford didn't see the movie until June 2004.
* Richard Boone was the first choice for the role of Lonnegan. Oliver Reed was offered the role but refused to test for it (he would later play Lonnegan in the sequel). Stephen Boyd was also considered.
* The Chicago Elevated stop used in the sequence where Snyder chases Hooker is the South Third Street station. There is still a stop there, on the current green line, but the building shown in the film was destroyed by a fire in 1974 and replaced in 1976. Though shown painted white in the movie, the old station probably would still have been the original natural brick color in the 1930s. The A/B signs on the platform are also an anachronism: skip stop service was not introduced until after WWII.
* Re-released as a double feature with American Graffiti (1973).
* Edith Head won her 8th and final Best Costume Design Academy Award for this film.