“Eddie, you’re a born loser.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
In Alternate Oscars, Peary gives Newman the Best Actor award he was expecting (and deserved). He writes that “as the brash, smart-ass hustler — a combination of a cocky gunslinger and a boxer willing to sell out friends in order to get a title shot — Newman has surprising authority on the screen, using not only a strong voice and that devil’s grin to hold our attention but also a confident pool player’s dramatic and imposing body language.” Thankfully, while “his character is a bundle of energy and anger,” Newman “wisely doesn’t try to overpower the role by acting hyper or using too many mannerisms.” Equally impressive is Laurie, who Peary nominates as one of the Best Actresses of the Year; her troubled, needy, yet distant character seems exactly like someone Eddie might fall for, and her trajectory is tragic indeed. Meanwhile, Scott (in just his third movie role) dominates whenever he’s on screen, perfectly embodying “a rich bastard who likes ‘action'” and “thinks Eddie is a loser… but knows he has talent”; and Gleason is perfectly cast as the “fat man” with impeccable pool skills. Also of note are Eugene Shuftan’s b&w cinematography, Kenyon Hopkins’ jazzy score, Dede Allen’s editing, Harry Horner’s production design, and a smart screenplay. While it’s hard to watch at times, this dark classic remains must-see viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)