“Well, you don’t leave much when you miss do you fat man?” -- ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson (Paul Newman).
“That’s what the game’s all about,” Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason).
“Two ball side pocket. (pockets shot...Fats taps the butt of his cue on the ground as a show of respect.)
“Very good shot,” Fats.
“You know, I gotta hunch fat man, I gotta hunch it’s going to be me from here on in. One ball, corner pocket (pockets ball). That ever happen to you? All of the sudden you feel like you can’t miss? Cause I dreamed about this game fat man. I dreamed about this game every night out on the road. Five ball (pockets ball). You know, this is my table, man I own it!” -- Eddie.
Then in the movie we see Felson running out ball after ball, the clock on the wall going round and round as hours ticked by, the Jazz soundtrack resonating a congruent, whimsical quality to this masterwork of the silver screen.
‘The Hustler’ is a pool story, but it is also so much more. Really and truly, it is a love story amidst the backdrop of the life of a pool player, ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson, The Hustler.
After an extended period of time elapses, Eddie finds himself at the end of another game winning run, “Pay the man again Fats,” He says.
The movie plays like a smooth Jazz record, like silk. It has a feel about it, like a pool hall, you feel the weight of high stakes pool upon you, a place and time where the best of the best collide upon that sea of green, upon the grey and black of “black and white” TV. Such a wonderful picture this timeless classic paints upon my pool mind, and I feel the drama, also having read the book. Walter Tevis was a master writer, and this is substantial in the history of Pocket Billiards.
Tevis was upset about Rudolph Wanderone stealing his character’s name from ‘The Hustler’ in ‘Minnesota Fats.’ Tevis said the character was fictional, and claimed that Wanderone had taken a fictional character's name. In defense of Wanderone, he did promote pocket billiards in a big way, and therefore he stands as one of the best promoters of the game the game has ever seen.
I remember that my ex got me a copy of the movie and on one side it had commentary from the actors and actresses, and the other was the regular movie version. It was awesome. I watched it several times, and so many short, sharp, often cutting lines in the film, it stands as a marvel of the marble slate that levels the field for all competing champions, these great gladiators of pool prowess in Felson and Fats!
Later, after some sort of pool marathon going the long hours from one day right into the next, we see “Fast Eddie” laying back in his chair, drunk, Fats having turned the tide on his assault of billiards bombshells, and bombastic run outs.
“Wake up Eddie…(Felson slowly comes to, sweaty and pale, looking like some kind of billiards zombie.) You lose again.” -- Charlie Burns (Myron McCormick ).
Eddie then stumbles, drunk, out of his chair, defeated, broken, beaten, pulls a few crumpled up bills out of his pockets, and says, “Fats I got like two hundred dollars here.”
“The game’s over Eddie,” Fats replies.
“Fats, I got like two hundred dollars here, you can’t run out on me,” Felson.
“You watch me,” Fats says and walks off.
Then we have Felson meeting up with Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie) in a cafe later down the line after he left his road partner Charlie, and the two go their separate ways after the crushing defeat playing against Minnesota Fats.
Eddie and Sarah hook up, and she falls in love with a pool hustler. They stay together for a time, but Sarah has problems with drinking, and quits for a time, but Eddie encourages her to drink one night unwittingly making her spiral into a drunken haze throughout much of their relationship; also, in the movie, she has a handicap, a lame leg, one leg longer than the other.
I won’t give away too much more of this movie, but check it out to see the best billiards movie ever written by the best billiards writer of all times, Walter Tevis.