After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
Johnny Hooker, a small time grifter, unknowingly steals from Doyle Lonnegan, a big time crime boss, when he pulls a standard street con. Lonnegan demands satisfaction for the insult. After his partner, Luther, is killed, Hooker flees, and seeks the help of Henry Gondorff, one of Luther's contacts, who is a master of the long con. Hooker wants to use Gondorff's expertise to take Lonnegan for an enormous sum of money to even the score, since he admits he "doesn't know enough about killing to kill him." They devise a complicated scheme and amass a talented group of other con artists who want their share of the reparations. The stakes are high in this game, and our heroes must not only deal with Lonnegan's murderous tendencies, but also other side players who want a piece of the action. To win, Hooker and Gondorff will need all their skills...and a fair amount of confidence. Written by
David Maurer sued for plagiarism, claiming the screenplay was based too heavily on his 1940 book The Big Con, about real-life tricksters Fred and Charley Gondorff. Universal quickly settled out of court for $300,000, irking David S. Ward, who had used many nonfiction books as research material and hadn't really plagiarized any of them. (It didn't help that Universal had quoted excerpts from Maurer's book-properly attributed, of course-in the souvenir booklet they produced as part of the film's publicity materials.)
Another lawsuit followed when a company called Followay Productions claimed that since they'd bought exclusive adaptation rights to The Big Con back in 1952, any movie ripped off of that book was ripped off from them, too. (The case was thrown out because Followay failed to get the author to join it.) Paul Newman sued for a refund on California state income taxes that he paid on the money he earned on The Sting, saying he should have been charged the out-of-state rate, not the resident's rate. (He won.) And Newman and George Roy Hill later sued Universal for lost revenue from VHS sales on the film and Slap Shot (1977). How fitting that a movie about money should have inspired so much real-life bickering about it. See more »
The phone on Polk's desk is appropriate for the time, but it rings like a phone from the 1960s or later. See more »
You see that fella in the red sweather over there? His name's Donnie McCoy. Works a few of the protection rackets for Cunnaro when he's waiting for something better to happen. Donnie and I have known each other since we were six. Take a good look at that face, Floyd. Because if he ever finds out I can be beat by one lousy grifter, I'll have to kill him and every other hood who wants to muscle in on my Chicago operation.
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The opening animated logo for Universal Pictures is in 1930s style, matching the movie's setting, instead of the 1970s version. See more »
A delicious wheeze from start to finish. Certainly a film that leaves you thinking that you'd like to have been in Henry's gang and played a part in separating Lonnegan from his dough. The editing is pin sharp and beautifully cast with a superb musical track to keep you company. The framing, the photography, the pace all dovetail exquisitely and if you feel left outside of the game plan in your first viewing, never fear, the second time of watching, you'll enjoy it just as much but it will mean more. Certainly it's a film you'll want to see a second time. At least. Oscars rightly by the handful and nominations are full deserved to combine for a winning performance by all concerned. Definitely in my top fifty of all time.
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