Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Double Up On Paul

Two of Paul Newman’s most indelible and contrasting performances, made some 20 years apart, get the double two-disc reissue this week, the 1961 pool hall classic The Hustler and the 1982 courtroom drama The Verdict (Fox, $19.95 apiece).(The The-get it?) It’s actually exhilarating to watch the marked differences between the young, rising star Newman, quivering with macho energy as Fast Eddie Felson, the brash, unpolished pool stud in The Hustler and then go to the veteran Newman’s burnt out, alcohol saturated, empty husk of a lawyer Frank Galvin in The Verdict. The Hustler racks up as a prototypical 60’s chunk of realism dosed with heavy sentimentality, helmed by Robert Rossen with great help from cinematographer Eugene Shuftan, who grabbed an Oscar. The young Newman featured is highly mannered, doing his best sub-Brando moves, surrounded by a rogue’s gallery of supporting types (Murray Hamilton, Vincent Gardenia, Jake LaMotta, and big boys George C. Scott and the one and only Jackie Gleason), but the movie put him smack dab on the Hollywood map. The Verdict is a wintry, grimy drama, scripted to perfection by David Mamet and directed by Sidney Lumet with his usual penchant for wringing the best out of actors. The elder Newman’s acting is punctuated more by silence and reaction than the early youthful, bottled-up method tics, and the actual acting execution of his lawyer-seeking-redemption is formidably contained and gracefully sad, a great mid-to-late career keeper.

1 comment:

Charlie Drago said...

Jazz fans, take note:

"The Hustler" score, by Kenyon Hopkins, features a young, daring, the-world-is-my-oyster believing Phil Woods, blowing the gamut from up-tempo combinations to high register trick shots on his alto cue.

Phil and cohorts briefly appear on screen during the Kentucky Derby party scene, if memory serves.

The soundtrack LP sells for too many dollars -- at least it did when I bought my copy a dozen years ago.

And the theme was used to great effect in an unforgettable SNL skit. Shot in B&W, a deadly serious John Candy, immaculately attired in Gleason elegance, gets all pink and powdery, chalks his cue as he says, "OK Fast Eddy, lets shoot some pool," bends over the table for the break ...

And miscues!

"Hold it, hold it, that was practice, I didn't go yet!" pleads Candy.