THE STING
1973, Universal, 129 min, USA, Dir: George Roy Hill

Circa 1936, con artist Robert Redford goes to his mentor, Paul Newman, for help when their mutual friend is whacked by the henchmen of numbers racketeer Robert Shaw. Newman decides to get a gang together that will put in play a complex scheme to fleece homicidal high-roller Shaw of a small fortune. The sterling cast includes Charles Durning, Ray Walston and Eileen Brennan. The epitome of the 1970s buddy film, THE STING won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Screenplay (by David S. Ward), Costume Design, Art Direction and Music (Marvin Hamlisch, adapted from Scott Joplin’s ragtime tunes).


TRUE CONFESSIONS
1981, MGM/Park Circus, 108 min, USA, Dir: Ulu Grosbard

Circa 1948, Robert Duvall is a hard-nosed cop and Robert De Niro is his brother, an enterprising monsignor rising behind the scenes with high-powered Catholic members of Los Angeles’ political elite. When a young actress is gruesomely murdered (à la the Black Dahlia), Duvall believes one of De Niro’s high-profile parishioners, pimp-turned-building contractor Jack Amsterdam (Charles Durning), may be involved. Issues of family, guilt, moral responsibility and hypocrisy collide in screenwriter John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion’s screenplay from Dunne’s novel. Director Ulu Grosbard focuses on character and the personal terrain of missed emotional and spiritual opportunities, rather than making a standard whodunit, something that led critics to damn the movie with faint praise. One of the great lost films of the 1980s.


HARRY AND WALTER GO TO NEW YORK
1976, Sony Repertory, 115 min, USA, Dir: Mark Rydell

“All the Digby-Hill-Chestnut gang needs is two breaks… out of jail… into a safe.” Second-rate entertainers James Caan and Elliott Gould try their hand at another line of work - bank robbing - when their vaudeville careers stall. Michael Caine, Diane Keaton and Charles Durning costar in this delightful comic crime caper in the tradition of THE STING. While the film’s budget almost crashed Columbia studios during production, the artistic and financial attention to details of the 19th-century period design pays off in this wildly fun crime comedy.


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