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The Sting(1973)

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teaser The Sting (1973)

SYNOPSIS

Johnny Hooker is a small-time grifter in Depression-era Chicago. When his friend and mentor Luther is murdered by thugs of big-time New York racketeer Doyle Lonnegan, Hooker sets out to avenge his death. He seeks out experienced con man Henry Gondorff to help him pull off an elaborate scam to fleece Lonnegan. Gondorff, a smart but down-on-his-luck drunk, agrees to help him and they lay a trap for Lonnegan that is full of twists and turns.

Director: George Roy Hill
Producers: Richard D. Zanuck, David Brown, Tony Bill, Julia Phillips, Michael Phillips
Screenplay: David S. Ward
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Art Direction: Henry Bumstead
Editing: William Reynolds
Music: Marvin Hamlisch (adaptation) with original piano music by Scott Joplin
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Cast: Paul Newman (Henry Gondorff), Robert Redford (Johnny Hooker), Robert Shaw (Doyle Lonnegan), Charles Durning (Lt. William Snyder), Ray Walston (J.J. Singleton), Eileen Brennan (Billie), Harold Gould (Kid Twist), John Heffernan (Eddie Niles), Dana Elcar (FBI Agent Polk), Jack Kehoe (Erie Kid), Dimitra Arliss (Loretta), Robert Earl Jones (Luther Coleman), James J. Sloyan (Mottola), Charles Dierkop (Floyd, bodyguard), Lee Paul (Bodyguard), Sally Kirkland (Crystal), Avon Long (Benny Garfield), Arch Johnson (Combs), Ed Bakey (Granger), Brad Sullivan (Cole), John Quade (Riley), Larry D. Mann (Train conductor), Leonard Barr (Burlesque house comedian), Paulene Myers (Alva Coleman), Joe Tornatore (Black gloved gunman), Jack Collins (Duke Boudreau), Tom Spratley (Curly Jackson), Kenneth O'Brien (Greer), Ken Sansom (Western Union executive).
C-129m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.

Why THE STING is Essential

With its clever story and crisp dialogue, The Sting is regarded by many to have one of the best original screenplays of its decade.

Director George Roy Hill and actors Robert Redford and Paul Newman had enjoyed tremendous success with their 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The Sting marked the second time the trio worked together in an effort to make lightning strike twice - and it did. The magical chemistry was still there and audiences flocked to theaters in droves to see Redford and Newman together again.

The Sting features a bright musical score made up mostly of turn-of-the-century Ragtime tunes originally written by composer Scott Joplin including the highly popular "The Entertainer". The success of the film was responsible for turning the spotlight on Joplin's wonderful music more than 50 years after his death and re-igniting its popularity with the public.

A loving wink at old gangster films of the 1930s, The Sting evokes a fond nostalgia for a bygone era of Hollywood. Director George Roy Hill creates a pitch perfect period atmosphere not only through costumes and sets but also through his use of a muted color scheme, Saturday Evening Post-inspired title card artwork and 1930s-style technical elements such as editing wipes and irises. The Sting is truly one of the most stylish films of the 1970s.

The Sting may be an audience-pleasing showcase for Robert Redford and Paul Newman, but Robert Shaw is not to be missed in one of his best performances as the sinister villain Doyle Lonnegan.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser The Sting (1973)

In 1983 a sequel to The Sting was released, called simply The Sting II. It was written by original Sting scribe David S. Ward and starred Jackie Gleason, Mac Davis and Teri Garr. It was a box office disappointment.

Similarly to what Bonnie and Clyde had done for women in 1967, The Sting's 1930's-inspired fashions ignited a trend in men's clothes across the country with gangster suits briefly becoming all the rage.

The Sting features an irresistible musical score made up mostly of turn-of-the-century Ragtime tunes originally written by composer Scott Joplin including the highly popular "The Entertainer". The success of the film was responsible for turning the spotlight on Joplin's wonderful music more than 50 years after his death and re-igniting its popularity with the public.

The musical soundtrack to The Sting, produced by composer Marvin Hamlisch, was a big hit. Hamlisch's adaptation of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" was released as a single and reached number 3 on the American Top 40 Chart - a remarkable feat for an old-fashioned instrumental piece.

Scott Joplin was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1976 "for his contributions to American music." Many scholars agree that this was due in no small part to the increased public awareness of Joplin's music brought on by the popularity of The Sting.

The Sting had a theatrical re-release in 1977, which included a booking at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser The Sting (1973)

According to the book Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards, Edith Head was presented her Academy Award for Best Costume Design for The Sting by Twiggy and Peter Falk. "Just imagine," said Head during her acceptance speech, "dressing the two handsomest men in the world and then getting this."

Neil Simon and Marsha Mason presented the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay to David S. Ward for The Sting.

Shirley MacLaine and Walter Matthau presented the Academy Award for Best Director to George Roy Hill for The Sting.

Elizabeth Taylor presented the Best Picture Oscar for The Sting. Producer Julia Phillips said on stage, "You can imagine what a trip this is for a Jewish girl from Great Neck - I get to win an Academy Award and meet Elizabeth Taylor at the same time."

The Sting was the only film for which Robert Redford was ever nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor.

The Sting was the second film on which Paul Newman, Robert Redford and director George Roy Hill teamed up. The trio had first worked together on the hit film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969.

According to Lawrence J. Quirk's 1996 book Paul Newman, the character of Henry Gondorff was originally little more than a supporting role. When Newman became associated with the project, however, the part was expanded in order to maximize the second on-screen partnership of Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Paul Newman had been advised to avoid doing comedy films, according to Lawrence J. Quirk's 1996 book Paul Newman, because he didn't have the light touch needed to play comedy. Part of the reason Newman wanted to play Henry Gondorff was to prove that he could play comedy as well as drama.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford were considered Hollywood's most bankable and most attractive leading men at the time they made The Sting.

One of the Oscar®-winning producers of The Sting was Julia Phillips, author of the infamous vitriolic 1991 Hollywood memoir You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again.

In her 1991 memoir You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again producer Julia Phillips said that the one thing she learned while making The Sting was to make sure she always negotiated the width as well as the height of the letters of her name in movie credits. When The Sting came out, she said, "everyone's name is in thick black letters but ours, which are willow thin."

Director George Roy Hill wanted The Sting to be reminiscent of old Hollywood movies from the 1930s and watched a lot of films from that era for inspiration. He also used old issues of The Saturday Evening Post to influence the film's visual style.

George Roy Hill originally wanted actor Richard Boone to play the part of villain Doyle Lonnegan.

The limp that actor Robert Shaw sports throughout The Sting is no affectation. Shaw hurt himself for real when he slipped and fell on a handball court just before shooting began. Director George Roy Hill decided to incorporate the injury into the film.

According to producer Julia Phillips, Robert Redford was concerned that he wasn't acting in The Sting but only doing a lot of running around. At the end of shooting, director George Roy Hill gave Redford a sculpture of the Warner Bros. cartoon character the Road Runner made out of nails as a joke. It was inscribed: IF YOU CAN'T BE GOOD BE FAST.

The Sting heavily utilized composer Scott Joplin's turn-of-the-century Ragtime music throughout even though the action takes place in the 1930s many years after the Ragtime trend had been popular. Director George Roy Hill felt that despite the musical anachronism, the lightness of Joplin's music perfectly captured the playful tone of the story.

Director George Roy Hill deliberately avoided using extras in most of The Sting. While studying old gangster films of the 1930s he noticed that there were rarely any extras in the scenes, and he wanted to give The Sting a similar feel.

According to Paul Newman, one afternoon of friendly drinks together triggered a series of competitive practical jokes between Paul Newman and George Roy Hill. Hill invited Newman to his office for a drink one afternoon. Just before, however, Hill told Newman that he had no beer or vodka and asked him to pick some up and bring it with him. Newman agreed. Later, Newman sent Hill a bill for $8.00. Hill responded to the bill by sending Newman a three page letter about the nature of friendship and how Newman had abused it. Newman responded to that by cutting Hill's desk in half with a chainsaw and leaving a note that said: "This isn't about friendship, it's about $8.00. I may detonate the entire bungalow next time, so I wouldn't mess around." Later, Newman received a bill from Universal Studios in the amount of $800 to pay for the damage to the desk. Newman never paid.

Screenwriter David Ward was inspired to write The Sting while doing research on pickpockets. That led him to learn about con artists known as confidence men, whose large-scale cons depend on their winning the trust or confidence of their intended marks.

Originally screenwriter David Ward was supposed to direct The Sting - it would have been his first film as a director. However, star Robert Redford insisted on someone more experienced behind the camera before he would sign on to play Johnny Hooker.

When George Roy Hill was first trying to interest Paul Newman in playing the part of experienced con man Henry Gondorff, Newman thought that he wasn't right for it. While Newman loved the script, he thought that the person playing Gondorff should be much older.

David Ward listened to a lot of blues music from the 1930s and 40s while writing The Sting.

According to Sting co-star Ray Walston, Paul Newman decided to play a joke on Robert Redford while shooting the film. Both actors drove Porsches and lavished attention on them obsessively. One day while Redford was gone, Newman took the keys to his co-star's Porsche and hid the car making Redford think that someone had stolen it.

George Roy Hill wanted an unknown face to play Robert Redford's love interest, Loretta, so that audiences wouldn't project any pre-conceived ideas onto her character. The actress chosen to play her, Dimitra Arliss, heard that some Universal executives didn't think she was pretty enough to be Redford's love interest, but Hill fought for her.

Screenwriter David Ward defines "The Sting" as the moment a con man separates a mark from his money.

John Scarne, a one-time magician known as an authority on card games and tricks, was used as a technical consultant and poker game hand double on The Sting.

Co-producer Tony Bill was an antique car buff who helped round up several period cars to use in The Sting. One of them was his own one-of-a-kind 1935 Pierce Arrow, which served as Lonnegan's (Robert Shaw) private car.

When The Sting first aired on television following its theatrical release, it scored a record share (61) of the viewing audience which was a huge number.

The art work used in the credits and inter-titles for The Sting were inspired by The Saturday Evening Post, a weekly publication that enjoyed its biggest popularity during the 1930s, the time period in which the story takes place.

In addition to winning an Academy Award for his adaptation of the musical score of The Sting, Marvin Hamlisch also won two additional Oscars the same night for his work on The Way We Were.

Legendary costume designer Edith Head won her eighth and final Academy Award for her work on The Sting.

When The Sting was finished, Universal could tell that it had something very special on its hands. The high hopes that everyone had had for the reunion of Butch and Sundance had been realized tenfold. All of the elements came together beautifully on The Sting: the cast, the script, the playful tone, the music and the stylistic elements. Everything worked, and it seemed to everyone that The Sting was sure to be a crowd pleaser at the box office.

Universal released The Sting over the Christmas holidays in 1973, and the reaction was immediate - it was a huge hit. Audiences loved seeing Robert Redford and Paul Newman together again in a fresh original comedy. They also loved The Sting's famous trick ending. Many people would return to the theater a second time or more to watch the film again just to go back and look for anything they may have missed during the first viewing, which certainly didn't hurt the box office receipts. "One of the things George [Roy Hill] had...was that he understood the value of surprises," said Robert Redford looking back on the film in a 2005 interview. "He would throw a surprise at the audience. Just when the audience thought they had something figured out, he'd go right or left..." In order for the film to work, according to writer David Ward, the audience had to be fooled. "The trick was not just in working the con game," he said according to the 2009 book Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy, "but in conning the audience as well...You didn't want people leaving the theater saying, 'Well, that was nice, but I'd never fall for anything like that.'"

The plan to reunite the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid team in The Sting exceeded everyone's expectations and was a memorable time for all involved. "It was a great experience," said Robert Redford in 2005. "First of all, the cast was terrific. Everybody loved each other. We had a great time...We all knew we were in the hands of a master craftsman...and everybody got so completely into their part." The Sting turned out to be the highest grossing film of the year. Its stylish elegance and sense of fun helped set the standard for the modern caper film, and its influence is still felt as it ranks among the best comedy films ever made.

Famous Quotes from THE STING

"Luther said I could learn from you. I already know how to drink." Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) to Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman)

"Glad to meet you, kid. You're a real horse's ass." Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) to Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford)

"Not only are you a cheat. You're a gutless cheat as well." Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) to Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman)

"Sit down and shut up, will you? Try not to live up to all my expectations." FBI Agent Polk (Dana Elcar) to Snyder (Charles Durning)

"Sorry I'm late. I was taking a crap." Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), pretending to be drunk as he arrives at a poker game.

"I don't even know you."
"You know me. I'm the same as you. It's two in the morning and I don't know nobody."
--Loretta (Dimitra Arliss) and Johnny (Robert Redford)

"Doyle, I KNOW I gave him four THREES. He had to make a SWITCH. We can't let him get away with that."
"What was I supposed to do -- call him for cheating better than me, in front of the others?"
Floyd (Charles Dierkop) to Doyle (Robert Shaw)

"Who told you this guy was in here?"
"Nobody. I just know what kind of woman he likes. Going to check all the joy houses till I find him."
"Oh, well maybe I could help you, if you tell me his name."
"I doubt it. Which way are the rooms?"
"Right through there. But I wouldn't go in there if I were you."
Billie (Eileen Brennan) to Lt. William Snyder (Charles Durning)

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser The Sting (1973)

In the early 1970s Paul Newman and Robert Redford were Hollywood's top box office stars and the leading male sex symbols of their time. Their first pairing together in George Roy Hill's 1969 western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had been a smash hit. Audiences had loved the chemistry between Newman and Redford and held out hope that they would get the chance to see the two work together again in the near future. That chance came when a young writer, David S. Ward, got the idea to write The Sting.

Ward, who had previously written the 1973 drama Steelyard Blues, first got the idea for The Sting while he was doing research on pickpockets. "I was researching pickpockets, and I had a bunch of books on pickpockets and grifters in general," said Ward in a 2005 interview, "and all the books had chapters and information on confidence men. And the more I read about confidence men, I thought, 'God, this is an incredible subculture. I'd love to do a movie about this. I've never seen a movie about confidence men-at least not about this kind of confidence man.' And since it was something I'd never seen a movie about before, I just said, 'I gotta do this.' The thing that sort of attracted me about confidence men were they seemed to be in some ways almost moral...because they didn't use violence, they didn't even steal - they used the mark's own greed against him...In some ways they were exposing the hypocrisy and the greed of supposedly respectable people." Out of that idea came the complex story of a nave young grifter teaming up with an older seasoned con man to outsmart a dangerous mob boss and avenge the death of a friend.

Ward gave the script to producer Tony Bill, who loved the idea. Bill, in turn, shared it with Julia Phillips, a colleague who was looking to become a producer along with husband Michael Phillips. Both Julia and Michael Phillips were impressed. The pair decided to team up with Tony Bill and go into business together. They optioned both Steelyard Blues and The Sting from Ward. Ward signed on with the understanding that he would be allowed to direct The Sting when the time came, making his feature film directorial debut.

The producing team next approached Robert Redford to star in the leading role of Johnny Hooker in The Sting. Redford was interested, but did not like the idea of David Ward directing. "It seemed fun, it seemed different and kind of quirky," said Redford in 2005, "but because of its structure I thought it would take a real master director to pull it off, and I didn't want to insult or not support a newcomer." Redford told the producers that he wanted to make The Sting, but only with an experienced director behind the camera.

Not long afterwards, Robert Redford got a call from his friend, director George Roy Hill. Hill told him that he had come across the screenplay for The Sting and thought it was great. The screenplay was at Universal Studios, where the producing team had partnered with Richard Zanuck and David Brown to make the film. Hill was in the middle of making Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) at Universal, but when he was finished, he said, he wanted to direct The Sting.

As soon as Hill signed on to direct, he knew that he wanted to lighten the tone of The Sting. Originally, David Ward had written the story as a much darker tale of con men on the take. Hill, however, envisioned The Sting as a playful homage to old Hollywood gangster films of the 1930s.

Originally the part of boozy worn-out con man Henry Gondorff was much smaller. It was meant as a supporting role behind Robert Redford's character of Johnny Hooker. George Roy Hill first described the part of Gondorff as "a burly, oafish slob of a man," and actor Peter Boyle was one of the first names tossed around to play him. However, one day Hill called up Paul Newman in order to rent a house that Newman owned in Beverly Hills. According to Sting co-star Ray Walston, Hill had rented the same house from Newman while they had worked together on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. When Newman asked why Hill would be needing the house again, Hill said that he would be shooting The Sting with Robert Redford. Newman reportedly said, "Oh? Anything in it for me?" Hill, according to Walston, "saw the dollar signs turning in his head," but told Newman that Gondorff was the second part to Redford's. Newman told Hill to send him a script anyway.

While Newman loved the script, he told Hill that he would be all wrong for the "burly, oafish" Gondorff. Someone older, a bit longer in the tooth, he thought, would be more appropriate in the role. Hill encouraged Newman to take the part anyway, and had the screenplay tweaked to beef up Gondorff's part and tailor it more to Newman's style. The actor had been advised before by people in his professional life not to do comedy because he couldn't pull it off. However, he was intrigued by the challenge of playing someone like Gondorff and agreed to sign on.

For the part of menacing racketeer Doyle Lonnegan, Paul Newman gave the script to English actor Robert Shaw. The day after he finished reading it, Shaw reportedly said to Newman, "Delicious. When do I start?"

Supporting actors Ray Walston, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan and Dimitra Arliss were brought on board to round out the cast of The Sting. Dimitra Arliss, who played the small but important part of Johnny Hooker's love interest Loretta, was an unknown face to moviegoers when she made The Sting. It was unusual for an unknown to be cast next to heavy hitters like Newman and Redford, but Hill wanted a fresh face to play Loretta. It was important, he said, that the audience not project any preconceived notions onto the character, which people would surely do with a name actress.

For the music of The Sting Hill made a controversial stylistic choice: Ragtime. Ragtime had been popular in America at the turn of the century, not during the 1930s depicted in the film. However, this wasn't something that ever bothered Hill. "...I don't much care whether the music is in strict period or not," said Hill in the liner notes to The Sting's soundtrack album. "If I thought a jazz band would give me the feeling I wanted for a Roman Epic, I'd use it. It probably wouldn't, but I'd have no academic objection to trying it." When he heard both his son and his nephew playing some of Scott Joplin's rags on the piano while he was doing early preparations for The Sting, he fell in love with the music. "Although Joplin's 'rags' were written before our period around the turn of the century," he said, "I kept connecting in my mind the marvelous humor and high spirits of his 'rags' with the kind of spirit I wanted to get out of the film." Hill hired his old friend, composer Marvin Hamlisch, to adapt Joplin's music for the Ragtime score of The Sting. "The selection of the material was easy," said Hill, "because his favorites were also mine-'The Entertainer,' "Gladiolus Rag,' 'PineApple Rag,' 'Ragtime Dance,' and my favorite, I think, of all of them the lyrical, haunting 'Solace.'"

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser The Sting (1973)

Two days before cameras were set to roll on The Sting Robert Shaw, who was cast to play the film's villain Doyle Lonnegan, had an accident. He had slipped on a handball court and hurt himself enough that doctors put him in a long-term brace. Shaw also acquired a noticeable limp in his walk as a result of the accident and wasn't sure that he would be able to work on The Sting in such a state. Director George Roy Hill, however, encouraged Shaw to remain on the film and incorporate the limp into his character, which he did memorably.

Production began on The Sting in January of 1973. The filming was split between some location shooting in Chicago, where the story was set, and on the Universal back lot in California.

Hill wanted The Sting to be a stylish film that accurately reflected the feel not only of 1930s Chicago but also of old Hollywood films from the era as well. Hill along with Art Director Henry Bumstead and Cinematographer Robert Surtees devised a color scheme of muted browns and maroons for the film and a lighting design that combined old-fashioned 1930s-style lighting with some modern tricks of the trade to get the visual look he wanted. Edith Head designed a wardrobe of snappy period costumes for the cast, and artist Jaroslav Gebr created inter-title cards to be used between each section of the film that were reminiscent of the golden glow of old Saturday Evening Post illustrations - a popular publication of the 1930s.

Hill tried to find locations in Chicago and Los Angeles that had not been touched by modern civilization to use for some of the scenes. In Los Angeles, locations such as The Green Hotel, the Santa Monica Carousel and The Biltmore Hotel were all used. Chicago's Union Station was also used along with LaSalle Street Station. Producer Tony Bill also contributed to the film's authentic look by helping to round up a number of period automobiles in the Southern California area.

As he researched old Hollywood gangster films of the 1930s for inspiration, Hill noticed that most of them didn't use a lot of extras in the scenes. "For instance," said Hill as quoted in Andrew Horton's 1984 book The Films of George Roy Hill, "...no extras would be used in street scenes in those films: Jimmy Cagney would be shot down and die in an empty street. So I deliberately avoided using extras."

To complete the effect, Hill made choices for The Sting that would utilize certain stylistic techniques of the 1930s. For instance, he decided to use an old-fashioned Universal logo from the period at the beginning of the film, immediately evoking a nostalgic tone for The Sting. Hill also employed devices such as editing wipes to transition between scenes and iris shots - all stylistic choices that would help place the audience in a 1930s time frame.

Having to shoot location scenes with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Hollywood's reigning movie stars and sex symbols of the day, proved challenging at times. Crowds would inevitably gather and reactions would be akin to the arrival of The Beatles in 1964. "I used to go see Sinatra at the Paramount in New York when I was a kid," said one observer as the cast and crew shot a scene at Chicago's Union Station, "and, my God, I never saw anything like that. I bet the temperature in here went up 22 degrees when Newman walked in." Added another onlooker at the time, "I never saw anything like it, either. Myself, I think we ought to rope off that center aisle and never let anybody use it again."

The pandemonium seemed to reach a particularly feverish pitch for Paul Newman, often to the amusement of co-star Robert Shaw. "...I did notice that it was Newman everywhere we passed through," said Shaw in a 1973 Rolling Stone interview. "I mean, I picked up about two fans on the way, and those two ladies guided me back to the station, and with great joy they introduced me to people along the way...and none of these absolute layers of girls knew who the hell I was. But they all recognized Newman, to be sure. I mean, everybody would come up and kind of swoon over him, but they didn't in Redford's case, not at all."

Newman made a point along with Robert Redford to never take such attention too seriously and instead focused on the work at hand. To keep each other grounded, Redford and Newman took turns playing practical jokes on each other. There was a good camaraderie between them, which inevitably registered on screen. "What puts Newman and Redford over so well together is as much chemistry as acting," said George Roy Hill according to the 1996 book Paul Newman by Lawrence Quirk. "When they're in the same frame something exciting happens even when they're not talking or even moving."

When Hill first approached composer Marvin Hamlisch to adapt Scott Joplin's music for the score of The Sting, Hamlisch was reluctant. He was a composer of original music, after all, and not in the habit of adapting other musicians' work. "I agreed to see a first cut in the screening room," said Hamlisch in his 1992 autobiography The Way I Was. "I quickly realized that this was one of the best pictures I had seen in years...David Ward had written a witty, stylish script, George Roy Hill had directed it faultlessly, and Newman and Redford were the best screen couple in years...One of the things that drew me to The Sting was that George had been shrewd enough to leave little oases without dialogue for the music. He built montages and sequences into the picture for this purpose. Whenever I see patches in a film that are talkless, I'm in heaven." Hamlisch agreed to take on the job.

Although Hamlisch wasn't a Scott Joplin aficionado, he quickly found several pieces of his that he liked and set about adapting them to suit the film. It took him a mere five days. "Writing an original theme for a film takes time, but that was not the job here," said Hamlisch. "Instead, I chose from preexisting material, and that was much easier. I quickly figured out what went where, adapted the music, timed it, cut it up, and the rest was history." He told his agent he was done, and the agent replied, "Whatever you do, don't tell them you've finished in five days. Call them in three weeks and tell them it's coming along nicely." That is exactly what Hamlisch did.

Hamlisch had nothing but praise for director Hill. "George Roy Hill was what every director should be for a composer. If I told him I had a problem and needed a little more time in a scene to accommodate the music-or a little less-he would try to make the adjustment. He also would ask my opinion about certain scenes in the movie and how they played. That's a rare collaborator."

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser The Sting (1973)

The Sting brought home a string of Oscars® in l973, for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction, among others, and became one of the top box-office grosses of the Seventies. It's not difficult to figure out its success. Coming on the heels of Watergate, Vietnam and a string of portentous social-consciousness message films, The Sting was pure escapism and a breath of fresh air to audiences of its day.

Director George Roy Hill and art designer Henry Bumstead went to great lengths to recreate the look and feel of the Thirties for the film, with location shooting in Los Angeles, Chicago and Pasadena. Each chapter of the story is announced with a title card done up in vintage style, and key changes of scenes are achieved with a "wipe", an editing technique of the time that was like an invisible hand running an eraser over the screen and cutting to the next image. Cinematographer Surtees' color palette was a wash of yellows, beiges and sepias that reinforced the film's antique feel.Never mind that the piano rags of Scott Joplin would have been more appropriate to the pre-WWI era; they lend a great deal to the film's overall charm and made Marvin Hamlisch a very popular film score arranger.

Screenwriter David Ward was originally slated to direct The Sting, but wary of working with a novice, Robert Redford didn't climb on board until it was announced that Hill would direct. Hill, Redford and Newman had enjoyed great success a few years earlier with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and The Sting would capitalize on much of the same easygoing buddy-movie rapport between the two.

It would be hard to imagine Richard Boone in the role of Doyle Lonnegan, but that's what the producers' original idea was before setting their sights on the burly Robert Shaw. Incidentally, Lonnegan's pronounced limp wasn't an affectation; Shaw injured his ankle during the shoot and decided to make the limp part of Lonnegan's character. By the same token, the script originally called for Henry Gondorff to be a more seedy individual and much more of a character part. On reading the script, though, Newman announced that he wanted the role, so Gondorff was overhauled somewhat for the more suave Paul Newman.

The talents all come together for a satisfying, entertaining movie that nearly bewilders the audience as much as the suckers who are hoodwinked by Gondorff and Hooker in their elaborate scam. In the hands of a less able director, the movie may have been a confusing mess, but Hill leads the viewer through the story's Byzantine twists and turns without ever telegraphing the outcome. Coupled with the charisma of its stars, his direction and handling of the story makes The Sting a delight to watch nearly thirty years later.

Producer: Tony Bill, Julia Phillips, Michael Phillips
Director: George Roy Hill
Screenplay: David W. Maurer, David S. Ward
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Art Direction: Henry Bumstead
Costume Design: Edith Head
Film Editing: William Reynolds
Original Music: Scott Joplin, adaptations by Marvin Hamlisch
Principal Cast: Paul Newman (Henry Gondorff), Robert Redford (Johnny Hooker), Robert Shaw (Doyle Lonnegan), Charles Durning (Lt. William Snyder), Ray Walston (J.J. Singleton), Eileen Brennan (Billie), Robert Earl Jones (Luther Coleman)
C-129m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.

by Jerry Renshaw

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teaser The Sting (1973)

Two days before cameras were set to roll on The Sting Robert Shaw, who was cast to play the film's villain Doyle Lonnegan, had an accident. He had slipped on a handball court and hurt himself enough that doctors put him in a long-term brace. Shaw also acquired a noticeable limp in his walk as a result of the accident and wasn't sure that he would be able to work on The Sting in such a state. Director George Roy Hill, however, encouraged Shaw to remain on the film and incorporate the limp into his character, which he did memorably.

Production began on The Sting in January of 1973. The filming was split between some location shooting in Chicago, where the story was set, and on the Universal back lot in California.

Hill wanted The Sting to be a stylish film that accurately reflected the feel not only of 1930s Chicago but also of old Hollywood films from the era as well. Hill along with Art Director Henry Bumstead and Cinematographer Robert Surtees devised a color scheme of muted browns and maroons for the film and a lighting design that combined old-fashioned 1930s-style lighting with some modern tricks of the trade to get the visual look he wanted. Edith Head designed a wardrobe of snappy period costumes for the cast, and artist Jaroslav Gebr created inter-title cards to be used between each section of the film that were reminiscent of the golden glow of old Saturday Evening Post illustrations - a popular publication of the 1930s.

Hill tried to find locations in Chicago and Los Angeles that had not been touched by modern civilization to use for some of the scenes. In Los Angeles, locations such as The Green Hotel, the Santa Monica Carousel and The Biltmore Hotel were all used. Chicago's Union Station was also used along with LaSalle Street Station. Producer Tony Bill also contributed to the film's authentic look by helping to round up a number of period automobiles in the Southern California area.

As he researched old Hollywood gangster films of the 1930s for inspiration, Hill noticed that most of them didn't use a lot of extras in the scenes. "For instance," said Hill as quoted in Andrew Horton's 1984 book The Films of George Roy Hill, "...no extras would be used in street scenes in those films: Jimmy Cagney would be shot down and die in an empty street. So I deliberately avoided using extras."

To complete the effect, Hill made choices for The Sting that would utilize certain stylistic techniques of the 1930s. For instance, he decided to use an old-fashioned Universal logo from the period at the beginning of the film, immediately evoking a nostalgic tone for The Sting. Hill also employed devices such as editing wipes to transition between scenes and iris shots - all stylistic choices that would help place the audience in a 1930s time frame.

Having to shoot location scenes with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Hollywood's reigning movie stars and sex symbols of the day, proved challenging at times. Crowds would inevitably gather and reactions would be akin to the arrival of The Beatles in 1964. "I used to go see Sinatra at the Paramount in New York when I was a kid," said one observer as the cast and crew shot a scene at Chicago's Union Station, "and, my God, I never saw anything like that. I bet the temperature in here went up 22 degrees when Newman walked in." Added another onlooker at the time, "I never saw anything like it, either. Myself, I think we ought to rope off that center aisle and never let anybody use it again."

The pandemonium seemed to reach a particularly feverish pitch for Paul Newman, often to the amusement of co-star Robert Shaw. "...I did notice that it was Newman everywhere we passed through," said Shaw in a 1973 Rolling Stone interview. "I mean, I picked up about two fans on the way, and those two ladies guided me back to the station, and with great joy they introduced me to people along the way...and none of these absolute layers of girls knew who the hell I was. But they all recognized Newman, to be sure. I mean, everybody would come up and kind of swoon over him, but they didn't in Redford's case, not at all."

Newman made a point along with Robert Redford to never take such attention too seriously and instead focused on the work at hand. To keep each other grounded, Redford and Newman took turns playing practical jokes on each other. There was a good camaraderie between them, which inevitably registered on screen. "What puts Newman and Redford over so well together is as much chemistry as acting," said George Roy Hill according to the 1996 book Paul Newman by Lawrence Quirk. "When they're in the same frame something exciting happens even when they're not talking or even moving."

When Hill first approached composer Marvin Hamlisch to adapt Scott Joplin's music for the score of The Sting, Hamlisch was reluctant. He was a composer of original music, after all, and not in the habit of adapting other musicians' work. "I agreed to see a first cut in the screening room," said Hamlisch in his 1992 autobiography The Way I Was. "I quickly realized that this was one of the best pictures I had seen in years...David Ward had written a witty, stylish script, George Roy Hill had directed it faultlessly, and Newman and Redford were the best screen couple in years...One of the things that drew me to The Sting was that George had been shrewd enough to leave little oases without dialogue for the music. He built montages and sequences into the picture for this purpose. Whenever I see patches in a film that are talkless, I'm in heaven." Hamlisch agreed to take on the job.

Although Hamlisch wasn't a Scott Joplin aficionado, he quickly found several pieces of his that he liked and set about adapting them to suit the film. It took him a mere five days. "Writing an original theme for a film takes time, but that was not the job here," said Hamlisch. "Instead, I chose from preexisting material, and that was much easier. I quickly figured out what went where, adapted the music, timed it, cut it up, and the rest was history." He told his agent he was done, and the agent replied, "Whatever you do, don't tell them you've finished in five days. Call them in three weeks and tell them it's coming along nicely." That is exactly what Hamlisch did.

Hamlisch had nothing but praise for director Hill. "George Roy Hill was what every director should be for a composer. If I told him I had a problem and needed a little more time in a scene to accommodate the music-or a little less-he would try to make the adjustment. He also would ask my opinion about certain scenes in the movie and how they played. That's a rare collaborator."

by Andrea Passafiume

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