The Sting (1973)

on December 25, 1973 by BOXOFFICE Staff
Three of the top talents that previously collaborated on the classic "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) are reunited to make the b.o. hum again. Stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford and director George Roy Hill have given a new look to an old con game in an original screenplay by David S. Ward. Film cashes in on the nostalgia craze by being set in 1936. This isn't overdone, the costumes and backgrounds being authentic looking without resorting to drowning out the soundtrack with Thirties tunes. The old Universal trademark of the mid-30's, in b&w, provides a good mood-setting opening. The story is divided into six segments and concerns the two stars' efforts in swindling racketeer Robert Shaw out of a small fortune. Newman's role is actually secondary to that of Redford, who is constantly being beaten up, shot at and pursued. It's the kind of film an audience really responds to; the plot has two major twists, the climactic one being so neatly done that an invited preview crowd burst into spontaneous applause. Few movies today can boast of such ingredients. Tony Bill and Michael and Julia Phillips produced the Richard D. Zanuck/David Brown presentation in Technicolor. In all, it's one of the year's funniest.

In six acts, an old con game is played. Robert Shaw, banker and racketeer, runs a numbers empire in Illinois in 1936. A Joliet runner, James J. Sloyan, is victimized by con artists Robert Redford, Robert Earl Jones and Jack Kehoe. When Jones is killed, Redford swears revenge. He contacts Jones' friend Paul Newman, a master con man now down on his luck. With backing from Harold Gould, John Heffernan and girl friend Eileen Brennan, Newman puts a plan into operation. He beats Shaw at poker during a game on a train, using Redford to lure Shaw to his phony Chicago betting parlor. Redford is constantly hounded by crooked cop Charles Durning and Shaw's hired gunmen, one of whom turns out to be a woman, Dimitra Arliss, posing as a waitress. Gould is set up as a Western Union executive with first-hand information on the outcome of horse races and Shaw starts betting as Redford's partner. The last act involves Shaw's placing $500,000 on a false tip and FBI agent Dana Elcar being in on the showdown.

Tie in with the original soundtrack album, available on MCA records and tapes. Get across the idea that anyone can be stung -- use artificial beehives for promotional gimmicks.

All it takes is a little confidence... The biggest con game of them all. Universal 129 mins.

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