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In 1930s New Orleans, the Cincinnati Kid, a young stud poker player who travels from one big game to the next, stopping along the way up with various girls, is pitted against the legendary champion card-sharp Lancey Howard in a high-stakes poker game. Written by
The cockfight scene was cut by British censors. See more »
In the opening card game of 5-card stud, the pot of money is shown at the dealer's left side of the table, then after a brief shot of The Cincinnati Kid's face, it is shown in the center of the table, barely in view. (at about 4:14) See more »
[Slade blackmails Shooter into cheating on his dealing so the Kid will beat Howard]
Hey, why are you doing this? It can't be for money.
Yes, for my kind of money, gut money. I wanta to see that smug old bastard gutted. Gutted!
Like he gutted you.
Yes, that's right, that's right!
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Edward G. Robinson as Lancey Howard has been King of the Poker Players for a good long time. But as that eminent American philosopher Ric Flair says, "to be the man, you got to beat the man." And there's a kid from Cincinnati played by Steve McQueen who thinks he can do it.
McQueen's up for a fair and square game, but Robinson's developed a bad enemy in Rip Torn. Torn is this rich hotshot who thinks he's good, but he gets in a game with Robinson who guts Torn good and proper. No markers for Torn, he's rich enough to write out a check and pay it up front. But Torn's looking to get even and he ain't too squeamish about what he has to do.
The action of The Cincinnati Kid takes place over a three day period in New Orleans and in the French Quarter which was left fairly intact after Hurricane Katrina. It's fitting and proper the story location should be there, a city with a rich gambling tradition.
There's a couple of nice women's parts, kind of a coming of age for two young actresses who played virginal teenagers up to then, Tuesday Weld and Ann-Margret. Ann-Margret is the nymphomaniac wife of dealer Karl Malden, the Nathan Detroit of the piece. After The Cincinnati Kid, Ann-Margret never played innocents again.
Torn is a slick and malevolent villain who tries to compromise Karl Malden in his quest for vengeance against Robinson. Malden has a great part as a man who's caught by the short hairs.
Originally Spencer Tracy was to do the Lancey Howard role, but according to The Films of Steve McQueen, Tracy thought his role subordinate to McQueen's and bowed out. Other sources have said it was health reasons. Probably both are true. Anyway Robinson is a wily and wise old soul who goes to the poker table like most of us go to the office, to work.
This is one of Steve McQueen's four or five best screen roles, he's an ultimate rebel hero here. He's got what it takes to win, but he'll win it on his own terms.
This film is always called The Hustler at a card table. Like The Hustler, the last climatic scene of the poker showdown with McQueen and Robinson crackles with tension. Who's going to pull it out.
Don't think you can guess the outcome and all its ramifications. Not by a jugful
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