Paul Newman (Great American Things, May 17, 2009) and Robert Redford co-starred in two blockbuster movies, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969, and The Sting in 1974. The term “buddy movie” predated their partnership, and yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pairing of superstars than these two actors in these two movies. But if you had to choose only one, it has to be The Sting.
Director George Roy Hill used both of his stars’ strengths – Newman’s versatility, and Redford’s charm. But the biggest star of all was the screenplay written by David Ward. Ward had investigated con artists for another script he had underway, and loved the big con called “The Wire.” Everyone who read the script also loved it, making it easy to attract top talent.
There were several excellent character parts as well in the ensemble cast. Robert Shaw was particularly strong as the mark, Doyle Lonnegan. The story is that Shaw hurt his ankle before filming began, and incorporated his limp into his character – “Ya folla?”
One other element of genius in this movie was the score, which featured ragtime tunes by Scott Joplin. They lent a wonderful period feeling to the movie, even though in reality they predated the time frame of the movie by about 25 years.
The Sting was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and won 7, including Best Picture. Oddly, Newman was not nominated for Best Actor, though Redford was – and he was one of the movie’s three nominees who didn’t win…