Blogging Best Picture: 1973, "The Sting"
This past winter I wrote about how the appeal of David O. Russell’s American Hustle seemed to me to be rooted in its sense of fun—in the pleasures of watching good-looking, well-liked Hollywood stars dressing up, mugging for the camera, and making each other laugh. The Fun Factor isn’t always enough to win a movie a Best Picture Oscar (it didn’t work for American Hustle), but it was in 1973, when George Roy Hill’s The Sting beat out more Serious fare such as The Exorcist and Cries and Whispers. The Sting was also something of a reunion film for Hill, Robert Redford, and Paul Newman, who had previously collaborated on the popular (and similarly Fun) buddy Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969. A caper comedy set in Depression-era Chicago, choreographed to the music of Scott Joplin (in jaunty new settings by Marvin Hamlisch), The Sting sells itself as a delicious soufflé. And it mostly succeeds as one. If while watching this movie it’s sometimes hard to decide who is sexier, Newman or Redford, that’s because the star power of each is so great that you can’t help but feel a little blinded by both of them. Watching them work together to tag-team a con artist of legendary stature, dressed to the nines (in costumes designed by Edith Head, no less), it’s impossible not to feel a kind of giddy joy.