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The Sting

The Sting was an Oscar winning caper film from 1973 based in the 1930s and centered around a convoluted plot by two professional "grifters" (Paul Newman and Robert Redford) to con a mob boss (Robert Shaw). The story is based in part on real life con games documented by David W. more...

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Maurer in his book The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man.

The film is divided into distinct sections with old-fashioned title cards. It is noted for its musical score—particularly its theme song, "The Entertainer", a piano rag by Scott Joplin, which was lightly adapted for the movie by Marvin Hamlisch.

A major box office success, it was the highest grossing film of 1974, taking in more than US$160 million.

A sequel, The Sting II, appeared in 1983.

A deluxe DVD, The Sting: Special Edition (part of the Universal Legacy Series) was released in September, 2005, including a "making of" featurette and interviews with the cast and crew.


The movie follows Johnny Hooker (Redford), a small-time con-man who, with accomplice Luther Coleman, manages to swipe $11,000 in cash from the "numbers" (an early, illegal version of the lottery) off of a courier for banker Doyle Lonnegan. When Doyle finds out that his money is gone, he has Luther killed and sends men to kill Johnny as well. Having lost his newfound wealth on a spin of a roulette wheel in an underground casino, Johnny can't go anywhere. He decides to get revenge for Luther's murder, and the only way to do that is to "learn from the best"—in this case, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), a former con-artist who now lives in the back of an amusement hall that doubles as a brothel. Henry warns Johnny about the dangers of going after Lonnegan, but Johnny is adamant. Henry decides to help, in part for one last 'big score'.

The only way they can get true revenge on Lonnegan is by lifting him of his money. However, Doyle is a smart man - he's not about to be taken in a simple confidence scheme. Thus, they decide on an elaborate plan. First, Henry's lover and partner in crime, Billie (Eileen Brennan), lifts Lonnegan's wallet so he can buy his way into a private poker game, posing as a businessman named 'Shaw'. When 'Shaw' wins ("He cheats," says Johnny, posing as 'Shaw''s assistant, 'Kelly'), Lonnegan realizes his wallet has been stolen, and his need for revenge lures him into a scheme devised by 'Kelly' to get back at his own 'boss'. Hooker, as 'Kelly', convinces Doyle that he knows someone in the Western Union office, and can win large sums of money in 'Shaw''s (Henry's) underground casino by getting the Western Union man to relay the winners of a horse race to them, then holding on to the information for a few minutes before broadcasting it over the radio to the underground casino—a con known as "past-posting". (In reality, they'd get the play-by-play off a ticker-tape wire, then have someone in the back talking through a microphone to make it sound as if the casino's customers were hearing it live on the radio.)


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