The Hustler, which won two of its nine Oscar nominations, was released on this day in 1961. The movie that takes the audience inside the sweaty pool halls of the 1960s sparked a revolution–expanding the game’s popularity and inspiring legions of wannabe champions. Paul Newman as “Fast Eddie” shows both the dark side and the glory of winning, as he becomes consumed by the thrill of victory. Newman may have had the leading role, but Jackie Gleason’s character, Minnesota Fats, could be accused of stealing the movie, coming across as unbeatable even before he takes a shot. Professional pool shark Rudolph Wanderone enjoyed Gleason’s character so much he started calling himself Minnesota Fats (though many thought the role was based on him).
Factoid: Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason made all the difficult shots in the movie themselves with one exception: Professional Willie Mosconi made one of the movie’s most impressive shots when two balls go in one hole–no special effects necessary.