Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 1961. Rossen Films, Screenplay by Sidney Carroll, Robert Rossen, based on the novel by Walter Tevis. Cinematography by Eugen Schufftan. Produced by Robert Rossen. Music by Kenyon Hopkins. Production Design by Harry Horner. Costume Design by Ruth Morley. Film Editing by Dede Allen. Academy Awards 1961. Golden Globe Awards 1961. New York Film Critics Awards 1961.
Paul Newman solidified his already established status with this perennial classic. Billiards became the hot game of the day after its release, a story about a pooltable hustler (Newman) who is just as sharp with the ladies as he is with his cue. Deciding in his reckless ambition to take on a hugely successful professional player (Jackie Gleason), he ends up losing the tournament and his self-confidence until a smooth talking manager (George C. Scott) woos him back into the game. Now he has the chance to make it to the top, but is he willing to sell his soul for it? Piper Laurie is excellent in her last role before her retirement (she was eventually brought back to the screen with 1976’s Carrie) as Newman’s alcoholic love interest, a woman who stands the chance of being one more commodity for him to sell out on the way to the top. Great tightscrew direction and effective atmosphere, followed by Martin Scorsese’s sequel The Colour Of Money in 1986, also starring Newman.