Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Hustler (1961)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Hustler (1961)

In Robert Rossen's exciting drama about the sports world of high-stakes pool:

  • the realistic pool play [sometimes by real-life player Willie Mosconi] and authentic sleazy pool-room milieu in the pool bar including the performance of legendary Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) and the challenge match from arrogant pool shark "Fast" Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) for $200 per game
  • "Fast" Eddie's admiring compliments about Minnesota Fats' play: ("Boy, he is great! Geez, that old Fat Man. Look at the way he moves, like a dancer...And those fingers, them chubby fingers. And that stroke, it's like he's uh, like he's playin' a violin or somethin'.")
  • late into the night during the marathon match, when "Fast" Eddie finally was able to play, he boasted about his coming hot streak: ("You know, I gotta hunch, Fat Man. I've gotta hunch it's me from here-on in...I mean, did that ever happen to you? When all of a sudden, you feel like you can't miss? 'Cause I dreamed about this game, Fat Man. And I dreamed about this game every night on the road...You know, this is my table, man, I own it...")
  • as the match continued between "Fast" Eddie and Minnesota Fats, Eddie was persistent and arrogantly wanted to force Fats to admit defeat and acknowledge his superiority in the marathon contest, when evil gambling promoter Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) labeled Eddie a 'loser': (Eddie: "I came after him and I'm gonna get him. I'm goin' with him all the way. The pool game is not over until Minnesota Fats says it's over. Is it over, Fats? (Fats turned to Gordon for the answer) (To Gordon) I'm gonna beat him, Mister. I beat him all night and I'm gonna beat him all day. I'm, I'm the best you ever seen, Fats. I'm the best there is. Now even if you beat me, I'm still the best"); Gordon responded to Fats: ("Stay with this kid. He's a loser") - and before long, the self-destructive and drunken Eddie didn't bow out, Fats gained the upper-hand, and Eddie was defeated; the victorious champion declared the match over: "Game's over, Eddie"
The Marathon Pool Match Between Eddie and Fats
"I gotta hunch it's me from here-on in..."
"The pool game is not over until Minnesota Fats says it's over. Is it over, Fats?"
  • the painful breaking of Eddie's thumbs with his face pressed against a glass window of the men's room - in retaliation for being a 'pool shark' and 'hustler'
  • the monologue during a picnic when Eddie told alcoholic and crippled girlfriend Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie), an aspiring writer, the rush he experienced in playing a perfect game of pool, comparing it to a jockey riding a horse: ("When I'm goin', when I'm really goin', I feel like a, like a jockey must feel when he's sittin' on his horse, he's got all that speed and that power underneath him, he's coming into the stretch, the pressure's on him - and he knows. He just feels, when to let it go and how much. 'Cause he's got everything workin' for him - timing, touch. It's a great feeling, boy - it's a real great feeling - when you're right and you know you're right. Like all of a sudden, I got oil in my arm. Pool cue's part of me. You know, it's a - pool cue, it's got nerves in it. It's a piece of wood; it's got nerves in it. You can feel the roll of those balls. You don't have to look. You just know. You make shots that nobody's ever made before. And you play that game the way nobody's ever played it before"); taken over by his description, Sarah confidently stated her belief in him as a "winner" - and her love: ("You're not a loser, Eddie. You're a winner. Some men never get to feel that way about anything. I love you, Eddie"); she further asked for him reciprocate her love: (Eddie: "You know, someday Sarah, you're gonna settle down. You're gonna marry a college professor. You're gonna write a great book - maybe about me, huh? Fast Eddie Felson, Hustler." Sarah: "I love you." Eddie: "Do you need the words?" Sarah: "Yes, I need them very much. If you ever say them, I'll never let you take them back")
  • the tragic suicide of Sarah after writing "Perverted, Twisted, Crippled" on her mirror; she had degraded herself by allowing a sexual assault by Bert during Eddie's pool tournament with the exploitative Bert at the Kentucky Derby
  • the stunning ending scene in NY after a redemptive concluding match between Fats and Eddie, whom Eddie beat soundly; when Bert demanded his cut of the winnings and threatened him with violence, Eddie stood up to Bert; Eddie admitted that in his own single-minded pursuit of pool, he had wasted the one meaningful thing in his life, Sarah, and given up his humanity: ("I loved her, Bert. I traded her in on a pool game. But that wouldn't mean anything to you, because who did you ever care about. 'Just win,' 'Win!' you said, 'win, that's the important thing.' You don't know what winning is, Bert. You're a loser. 'Cause you're dead inside and ya can't live unless you make everything dead around ya! Too high, Bert - the price is too high. If I take it, she never lived. She never died. And we both know that's not true, Bert, don't we, huh? She lived, she died. Boy, you better, you tell your boys they better kill me, Bert. They better go all the way with me, but if they just bust me up, I'll put all those pieces back together again, then so help me, so help me God, Bert, I'm gonna come back here and I'm gonna kill you"); Bert's thugs moved toward Eddie, but Bert conceded and gestured to his goons to back off, and then delivered an ultimatum that Eddie must never enter a NY pool hall again: ("All right. All right. Only, uh, don't ever walk into a big-time pool hall again")
  • the film's final words were between the two combatants: challenger Eddie and the beaten Fats: "Fat Man, you shoot a great game of pool"; Fats responded: "So do you, Fast Eddie"

Minnesota Fats
(Jackie Gleason)
(Eddie: "Look at the way he moves...")

"Fast" Eddie Felson
(Paul Newman)

Promoter Bert Gordon (George C. Scott)

The Painful Breaking of Eddie's Thumbs

Picnic Scene Between Eddie and Sarah

Sarah's Suicide: Words Written on Mirror

Eddie's Confession to Bert: "I loved her, Bert"

Eddie Standing Up to Bert Gordon

Fats: "So do you, Fast Eddie"


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