The Hustler is a 1961 American CinemaScope drama film directed by Robert Rossen from Walter Tevis‘s 1959 novel of the same name, adapted for the screen by Rossen and Sidney Carroll. It tells the story of small-time pool hustler “Fast” Eddie Felson and his desire to break into the “major league” of professional hustling and high-stakes wagering by high-rollers that follows it. He throws his raw talent and ambition up against the best player in the country, seeking to best the legendary pool player “Minnesota Fats“. After initially losing to Fats and getting involved with unscrupulous manager Bert Gordon, Eddie returns to try again, but only after paying a terrible personal price.
The film was shot on location in New York City and stars Paul Newman as “Fast” Eddie Felson; Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats; Piper Laurie as Sarah; and George C. Scott as Bert. It was followed by The Color of Money in 1986, with Newman reprising his role.
The Hustler was a major critical and popular success, gaining a reputation as a modern classic. Its exploration of winning, losing, and character garnered a number of major awards; it is also credited with helping to spark a resurgence in the popularity of pool. In 1997, the Library of Congress selected The Hustler for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The Academy Film Archive preserved The Hustler in 2003