#320. Jack Lemmon

Comedy has many styles. From the wordplay of The Marx Brothers and slapstick of the silent comedians to the “gross-out” approach of modern comedians, very few entertainers have a comedic style quite like Jack Lemmon. If I were to put a label on it, his comedy would be “reactionary.” Life can be so full of ridiculous and hilarious situations that Lemmon’s reactions to them make his comedy relatable to the “everyman.” There are plenty of tools in this reactionary comedy toolbox, not the least of which are the double take, the sudden realization, and the moment of disbelief. Jack Lemmon is a master of all of them and more, mostly due to his incredibly expressive face. Granted, Lemmon has also had many dramatic roles, but most people remember him for his comedy. This week’s two films highlight the comedy of Jack Lemmon.

The ApartmentThe Apartment
Year: 1960
Rating: Approved
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

Sometimes an actor’s comedy is due to their collaborative work with the director of a film. The Apartment (1960) was only the second film Lemmon did with legendary director, Billy Wilder. By 1960, comedies were Wilder’s bread and butter and both he and Lemmon would go on to collaborate on five more of them. Even their next film after The Apartment, Irma la Douce (1963), brought back Shirley MacLaine since their combined chemistry worked so well in the Best Picture-winning The Apartment. Lemmon earned two Best Actor Oscar nominations for his work with Billy Wilder. He would earn another with Blake Edwards (another comedy director) for his acting in Days of Wine and Roses (1962), even if two more of their collaborations together wouldn’t produce another Oscar nomination.

Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is shrewd when it comes to advancing his career. While he might not have any exemplary skills, he does possess one thing that can give him an edge toward a promotion: an Upper West Side apartment. Because it’s far away from the suburbs and close enough to their work, some of the managers at Bud’s job have been giving him glowing recommendations for the shared use of the apartment to conduct their extra-marital affairs. When Bud’s boss learns of this, he wants in on the action, putting Bud out of his apartment for the night but compensating him for the inconvenience. Unfortunately, Bud’s date for the evening stands him up, which is made all the more surprising when he goes home and finds her unconscious in his apartment. Being the gentleman he is, Bud nurses the woman to health, spurring them both to fall in love with each other, despite the gossip at work.

Some Like it HotSome Like it Hot
Year: 1959
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 120 minutes / 2 hours

A single year after winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Mister Roberts (1955), Jack Lemmon received his first Best Actor nomination for Some Like it Hot (1959), which was also his first film under the aforementioned Billy Wilder. Lemmon would not win the Best Actor Oscar until Save the Tiger (1973), at which point in his career he began earning nominations for his dramatic work, including Best Actor nominations for The China Syndrome (1979), Tribute (1980), and Missing (1982). In total, Jack Lemmon won two Oscars with eight nominations. Perhaps in his aging years, the comedy did not come quite as quickly in his younger exuberance. Of course, he used both to his benefit in Grumpy Old Men (1993) and in its sequel, Grumpier Old Men (1995). Still, I feel his best comedic performance came as a cross-dressing jazz musician in Some Like it Hot.

Jerry (Jack Lemmon) and Joe (Tony Curtis) need a gig and a quick ride out of town. Unfortunately, the only open positions in a jazz ensemble they can find are exclusively for women. Not wanting to be associated with the mobsters they used to play music for, the two men disguise themselves as women and head to Miami. While Joe manages to adopt a second disguise to woo their bandmate, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), Jerry’s female persona earns the unwanted attention of millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown). As Jerry keeps Osgood occupied so Joe can maintain his disguise as a fake millionaire, this eventually leads to Osgood proposing. Jerry accepts the engagement in the hopes that he can get a lot of money during the divorce when his ruse is revealed. When the mob comes around searching for them, Jerry and Joe need to act fast to escape again. It’s at this moment that Jerry learns it won’t be easy to leave.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 laugh-filled Jack Lemmon roles

Bacon #: 1 (JFK / Kevin Bacon)

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#319. Shirley MacLaine

While there are plenty of comediennes in Hollywood today, this wasn’t always the case. Most of the women who appeared in comedies were either cast as serious characters to offset the hilarity of their male counterparts (as was done in The Marx Brothers’ films) or were used only as naïve damsels who would eventually fall in love with the male main character. It wasn’t until the 1950’s when women started to have roles that could showcase their comedic talent. Shirley MacLaine was one of these women, and she has continued to support comedies to this day. With such a long and diverse career, MacLaine has managed to maintain her poise and dignity in a genre that often resorts to slapstick and lowbrow jokes to get their laughs. This week’s two films highlights some of Shirley MacLaine’s best roles.

Terms of EndearmentTerms of Endearment
Year: 1983
Rating: R
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

When it comes to awards, comedies are often at a disadvantage when compared to dramas. It is disappointing to have such a bias toward dramatic stories and roles when there are plenty of excellent comedic films. This bias is also present for the actors who play these comedic roles. Because of this challenge, the comedic actors and actresses who manage to be nominated for their work have overcome much to earn that honor. Shirley MacLaine has received nominations for Best Actress five times during her career. For three decades, she received nominations for Some Came Running (1958), The Apartment (1960), Irma la Douce (1963), and The Turning Point (1976). Finally, in 1983’s Terms of Endearment, a film that also took home Best Picture, she took home that coveted statuette for her role as Aurora Greenway.

Despite being alone, Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) readily confides in her adult daughter, Emma (Debra Winger). Both of them are practically in the same life stage: searching for love wherever it may reside. Unfortunately, as Emma finds love with Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), Aurora’s disapproval puts a wedge between them both. Meanwhile, Aurora gets to know her neighbor, Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson) and falls in love with the retired astronaut. Through some difficult times in Emma’s marriage and journey through motherhood, Aurora is always there for her. Unfortunately, there is little Aurora can do once Emma is diagnosed with terminal cancer. A mother never wants to bury their child, even if said child has had a meaningful and love-filled life up until that point.

The ApartmentThe Apartment
Year: 1960
Rating: Approved
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

From her very first role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955), MacLaine soon found herself in many Best Picture winners. Only a year later did she have a role in Around the World in 80 Days (1956), the Best Picture for that year. Four years after that, she would appear in The Apartment (1960), also a Best Picture winner. Along with the aforementioned Terms of Endearment, MacLaine certainly has a knack for appearing in fantastic movies. Of course, when I go back and watch The Apartment, I realize how young she really was. Today, she has aged gracefully into other roles in such movies as Steel Magnolias (1989), Guarding Tess (1994), Bernie (2011), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), and The Last Word (2017). Still, one of her most iconic roles for me was as Fran Kubelik in The Apartment.

Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) is an elevator operator in an insurance office. While her job has its ups and downs, the least of which is repeated sexual harassment from some of the men, she eventually runs into Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon). Bud asks Fran out on a date to go see The Music Man at the theater that night. Fran accepts but never shows up since she first has to meet up with her lover, Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). Coincidentally, Sheldrake takes Fran back to Bud’s apartment. Bud had been loaning his conveniently located apartment out to his co-workers so they could have their extramarital affairs in exchange for a recommendations to get him promoted. When Bud finally comes home, he finds Fran in his bed, having attempted suicide by a sleeping pill overdose. Over the next few weeks, he helps her get back on her feet, and they both fall in love in the process.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 magnificent Shirley MacLaine roles

Bacon #: 2 (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty / Joey Slotnick -> Hollow Man / Kevin Bacon)

#238. Beauty and the Beast

Contrast is the key to a good story. When two ends of a spectrum are forced together, the resulting interaction merely highlights their differences. Because two characters come from such different backgrounds, their misunderstandings of each other add conflict, which is essential to any story. Good vs. Evil. Right vs. Wrong. Rich vs. Poor. These common dichotomies have been used countless times in numerous plots. Perhaps the reason for this is the timeless nature of contrast. Another such contrast is that of Man vs. Woman. One is uncouth and primal; the other is refined and sophisticated. When this contrast is taken to its logical extremes, we arrive at the contrast of Beauty vs. Beast. While this contrast is generally relegated to monster movies, this week’s two films show some successful uses of the “Beauty and the Beast” plotline.

KingKing Kong Kong
Year: 1933
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

Sitting right on the edge of horror films is that of monster movies. In the early days of film, these pieces would be comparable to the science fiction pulp that was never taken seriously, but was still popular nonetheless. Most of these pieces would feature some enormous animal or mutated monster with a scantily-clad woman in its clutches. While these films do follow the “man vs. nature” plotline, the contrast of a woman to the monster invokes another layer on top of this common theme. The innocence of a woman taken away by a monstrous beast can be a metaphor for many things and is often a soapbox to comment on society as a whole. That being said, King Kong truly set the stage for many of these monster films, most of which only try to imitate the perfection that was achieved back in 1933.

Part of the timeless notoriety of King Kong comes from the special effects it utilized, many of which were years ahead of their time. These effects were able to bring an enormous gorilla into our world and have it interact with the people who invaded its habitat. Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) was reluctant to bring a woman along on his next nature film, but since audiences wanted a dame on screen, he hired Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to come on an expedition to Skull Island. Once there, the natives kidnap her in order to offer a “golden” sacrifice to their god known as “Kong”. While the crew of the ship fights to regain Ann, Kong also fights to keep her. In the end, the crew wins and Kong is carted back to New York, where his obsession with Ann leads him to climb the tallest building in town: the Empire State Building. When Kong is shot down, Denham remarks that “it was Beauty killed the Beast”.

Beauty and the BeastBeauty and the Beast
Year: 1946
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

Inside every man lurks a beast. Most can control their baser urges and interact with the fairer sex in everyday situations. However, whenever we act out of line, we can be accused of being a “beast”. That being said, sometimes we are misunderstood and merely long for a woman to get to know us better in order to see that we’re not that bad. After all, women can make men do really stupid things sometimes (like climb the Empire State Building, for instance). Unlike the aforementioned monster movies, fairy tales have beasts in a more romantic context. These beasts tend to be men who found themselves in unfortunate, magical circumstances and therefore only a beast in exterior context only. For the beautiful woman who is able to see past the rough outer covering to the tender heart within, many riches (both literal and metaphorical) await her.

Once again, part of what sets this film apart from its counterparts is the excellent special effects that were used to create the magical grounds where the Beast (Jean Marais) whiles away his time. One day, a man (Marcel André) appears in the forest surrounding the castle, lost, penniless, and tired. The magical castle leads him inside where he falls asleep, only to be awakened by the roar of the Beast. In his hasty retreat, he remembers a request from his daughter, Belle (Josette Day), and takes a rose from the garden. This triggers the Beast’s appearance and bargain to trade the father’s life for imprisonment of one of his daughters. Belle takes it upon herself to be held by the Beast, eventually learning of the tragic circumstances of his transformation. She is released for a week when her father falls ill, but this event triggers the death of the Beast at the hands of Belle’s brother and suitor.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 beauties and beasts

#227. Christopher Walken

What happens when you have an actor who won’t turn down any roles? Well, you’ll end up finding them in more movies than you had originally thought. Often, you’ll see them in bit parts and say to yourself, “Isn’t that so-and-so?” Some actors merely blend into the scenery and are harder to pick out, but not Christopher Walken. Especially in his more recent roles, Walken has embraced his look and his unique way of speaking, making him pretty easy to spot in the 100+ movies in which he has acted. Considering his career started in the mid-1960’s, this prolific amount of acting is quite a feat in itself, mainly due to the fact that he won’t turn down a role unless he’s too busy. With some years touting seven Christopher Walken films, it becomes apparent that he is never too busy to act. This week’s two films focus on the recent and retro roles of Christopher Walken.

Seven PsychopathsSeven Psychopaths
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours

Perhaps one of the most imitated voices, Christopher Walken has found himself in plenty of comedies as of late. This is partly due to the comedic timing that lends itself to the erratic pauses made when he speaks. Now, it’s difficult to tell if he’s merely playing up this aspect of his popular culture appeal, but needless to say most comedies he has appeared in have highlighted this trait. Although, the unintended consequence of being cast in a lot of comedies is that he is then associated with a lot of terrible movies. That being said, not all comedies have to be terrible. Sometimes they can be smart and clever, which Walken is still adept at portraying, regardless of some of the other movies in his filmography. One such comedy was Seven Psychopaths (2012), which gives Christopher Walken a chance to portray a well-rounded character, instead of merely a nod to popular culture.

Hans Kieslowski (Christopher Walken) has resorted to stealing dogs and returning them to their owners for a reward. Despite his religious beliefs, this is the only way he can find enough money to help pay for his wife’s cancer treatments. Providing assistance in this endeavor is Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell), who steals a Shih Tzu by the name of Bonny. This dog belongs to just one of the eponymous “Seven Psychopaths”, Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson). Billy and Hans’ friend, Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell) is struggling to write this titular screenplay, having only a few of the psychopath stories figured out. After telling Hans one of the stories, the “Quaker” reveals that he was in fact the psychopath in question, but now his wife has been killed and the three have been chased into the desert for a final shootout with Charlie and his men.

The Deer HunterThe Deer Hunter
Year: 1978
Rating: R
Length: 183 minutes / 3.05 hours

With a career that’s been so long and filled with performances, it’s often forgotten that Christopher Walken has actually won an Academy Award for Acting. He was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor twice in his career: recently for his role in Catch Me if You Can (2002) and initially for his performance in The Deer Hunter (1978). This first nomination led to his eventual win of the Oscar, which means that every trailer from then on out could use “Oscar-winning” next to their inclusion of Christopher Walken. The fact that he’s also been in a few Best Picture nominees and winners does give credence to his ability as an actor, and not merely as a comic foil. If anything, the Oscar win early in his career allowed Walken to pursue any type of movie he would want to do, mainly because the pressure to win an Oscar has since been relieved.

In a small town in Pennsylvania, three friends are living their lives in their inevitable march toward matrimony and military. Mike (Robert DeNiro), Nick (Christopher Walken), and Steven (John Savage) are in the midst of celebrating Steven’s marriage and Nick’s engagement when they run across a Green Beret in a bar who has become disillusioned with the Vietnam War. With one last hunting trip, Mike holds to his “one shot” mantra before the three are sent off to war. Years later, the three are trapped in a prisoner-of-war camp and forced to play Russian roulette for their captors’ amusement. In a risky move, Mike plays with three bullets and manages to take out all of the guards. Unfortunately, they get separated during their escape and it takes years for Mike to find everyone, all in varying states of mental and physical decay.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 wonderful Walken performances

Bacon #: 2 (Homeboy / Mickey Rourke -> Diner / Kevin Bacon)

#183. Harold Lloyd

Slapstick comedy was popular in the early ages of film because of its highly visual nature. Because of its popularity, three men emerged as the founding fathers of this genre. Having already written about Charlie Chaplin, the next person in this lineage of comedy masters is that of Harold Lloyd. Perhaps the least known of the three (which also includes Buster Keaton); Lloyd was in the middle of these two legends, which is possibly why he isn’t known for as many films. Inspired by Chaplin and an inspiration to Keaton, Harold Lloyd has created some very impressive stunts through his career. Taking a cue from Chaplin, Lloyd’s characters are recognizable by the round glasses they wear (and occasional flat-top hat), thus establishing his characters as uniquely Lloyd. This week’s two films highlight some excellent works by Harold Lloyd.

The Kid BrotherThe Kid Brother
Year: 1927
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 82 minutes / 1.36 hours

Aside from the iconic glasses he wore in his films, Harold Lloyd’s characters exhibited a few other traits as well. Most of them were named Harold, for obvious reasons. They were also a bit of a deviation from Chaplin’s recurring character of “The Tramp” because Lloyd’s character was rarely someone living in poverty. To add a relational aspect to his films, almost all of them involved the main character, usually nicknamed “the boy”, getting the girl by the end of the film. Usually, this would involve some sort of manly feat that would impress the girl and make her fall for him. By the end of his silent film career, before he started making “talkies”, Lloyd’s “Glasses” character was pretty well established. The Kid Brother was the second-to-last of these silent films and is seen as the quintessence of Lloyd’s film persona.

When you’re the weakest and youngest brother of two strong men, the need to establish your manliness can be quite the challenge. As luck would have it, a travelling medicine show rolls into Hickoryville and this kid brother, Harold Hickory (Harold Lloyd), is almost immediately taken with the daughter of the travelling salesman: Mary Powers (Jobyna Ralston). After the show accidentally burns down, Mary and her father are invited by Harold to stay with the Hickorys. At the same time, a large sum of money is stolen from the Hickorys, which was given to them by the town to repair part of it. Since Harold showed Mary such kindness, she suggests that he do the manly thing and investigate the theft. He does, and runs across some powerful crooks who are much stronger than he is. However, he uses his wits to get the money back and win the day.

Safety Last!Safety Last!
Year: 1923
Rating: Not Rated:
Length: 70 minutes / 1.17 hours

A challenge with slapstick comedy has always been the stunts. Harold Lloyd’s films were well noted for these stunts, many of which had terrific chase sequences. As such, safety was quite important for these films, as any wrong moves could result in Harold’s death. What’s almost ironic is that four years before Safety Last!, Lloyd was severely injured by an explosion caused by a prop of a bomb. This explosion managed to blow off a finger and thumb, which meant that all future stunts he performed would have to be done with this handicap. Even despite this handicap, Lloyd performed one of his most famous slapstick sequences, as noted for its daredevil-ish qualities. This sequence from Safety Last! is Lloyd’s best known and considered a hallmark in the era of silent comedies, still being referenced in popular culture today.

Harold Lloyd (as himself) moves from the country to the big city in the hopes that he can obtain a job that will earn him enough money to marry his girlfriend. After obtaining a job as a sales clerk in a department store, he starts sending his girlfriend gifts that he cannot afford, to give her the sense that he is actually successful. At the same time, his roommate, Bill (Bill Strother), gets in trouble with the police and manages to escape by climbing a building. Harold uses this newfound skill in his roommate to enter a contest for $1,000 to anyone who can increase business to the department store where he works. The police catch wind of this promotion and hope to catch Bill there. Because of this, Harold ends up climbing the building with the plan being to switch places with Bill mid-way. Unfortunately, the police chase Bill throughout the building, leaving Harold on his own, clinging to the stone façade.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 lovable Lloyd reels

Bacon #: 3 (For Heaven’s Sake / Charles Sullivan -> The Lady Gambles / Eda Reiss Merin -> Enormous Changes at the Last Minute / Kevin Bacon)

#167. Katharine Hepburn

As impressive a feat as winning three Oscars for acting may be, one has to consider that some of those wins might be for a Supporting role. For instance, while Meryl Streep has won three Oscars for acting, only two were for Best Actress. The only actor to win all three of his Oscars for Best Actor is Daniel Day-Lewis. Of course, when only five people have won three awards for acting, the feat is hard to match. That is, unless you’ve beaten that record. Katharine Hepburn is just such an actress. Not only has she won four Oscars, but all four were for the Best Actress category. Furthermore, even though she doesn’t have as many nominations as Meryl Streep, all 12 of Hepburn’s nominations were for Best Actress. Even more to the point, Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004). This week’s two films examine some of Katharine Hepburn’s lighter work.

Bringing Up BabyBringing Up Baby
Year: 1938
Rating: G
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

Even though Katharine Hepburn bookended her career with Best Actress wins, it doesn’t mean that she worked in serious films the entire time. In fact, some of the films she acted in were initially considered failures. While many factors can work against a film being successful, over time its cultural significance emerges and makes it a classic. After all, sometimes we go to the movies not to think about deep subjects, but to laugh and be entertained. And there’s nothing more entertaining than a screwball comedy. Perhaps it was the fact that Bringing Up Baby was filled with screwball characters that alienated its original audience, but when we look at its legacy now, we see a stupendous film, despite its designation as “low comedy” (i.e. slapstick and fart jokes). What really helped cement this film’s greatness were the performances of its lead actors: Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.

Let’s face it: leopards make lousy pets. Unfortunately, the wealthy seem to gravitate toward keeping exotic animals, despite the challenges in keeping them. Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) is now in possession of a leopard she received from her brother. The leopard is meant for their aunt, Elizabeth Random (May Robson), but Susan knows nothing about keeping leopards. In comes David Huxley (Cary Grant), a paleontologist who is looking to impress Mrs. Random in order to receive a large donation to his museum. Unfortunately, Susan does not know the difference between a paleontologist and a zoologist, and so she gets David to help her raise the leopard. Adding to the unfortunate circumstance, David is a day away from marrying Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker) and cannot spare any energy for these crazy antics. Still, Cupid’s arrow is a cruel mistress.

The Philadelphia StoryThe Philadelphia Story
Year: 1940
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 112 minutes / 1.86 hours

When a movie containing Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart comes along, there’s no doubt that it will be excellent. The Philadelphia Story does not disappoint on this aspect. Reminiscent of the aforementioned Bringing Up Baby, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant worked well together to produce another quality comedy. In fact, The Philadelphia Story was the fourth of four comedies featuring the pair, preceded by Sylvia Scarlett (1935), Holiday (1938), and Bringing Up Baby (1938). One of Hepburn’s 12 nominations was for her role in this film, even though the only two Oscars it won were for its writing and for James Stewart’s performance. This Best Actor role was obvious in the film, as Stewart gives one of the best drunk scenes ever seen in cinema. The American Film Institute (AFI) has placed this film at #44 on its top 100 list, whereas Bringing Up Baby only made it to #88.

Hepburn plays a rich woman by the name of Tracy Samantha Lord Haven who is about to be re-married. However, when a tabloid reporter, Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart), and her ex-husband, C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), show up, she begins to do a bit of soul searching. While she wants to marry George Kittredge (John Howard), she’s now torn between him, the ex-husband her younger sister adores, and the mysterious reporter. As the wedding approaches, the stress gets to Tracy and she ends up drinking a bit too much, which is somewhat ironic considering one of the reasons she divorced Dexter in the first place was because of his alcoholism. However, she wasn’t the only one drunk, as Mike joined in the festivities. After finding out that Mike and Tracy went for a swim, the fiancé leaves, but the guests are already there! They expect a wedding, and a wedding they will get, but for who?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Katharine Hepburn classics

Bacon #: 2 (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner / Timothy Scott -> Footloose / Kevin Bacon)

#145. Robert Redford

While moving from Actor to Director seems like the natural career advancement in Hollywood, few have done so as successfully as Robert Redford. Sometimes the Director role is hesitantly accepted, as was the case with Mel Gibson. Occasionally you’ll run across an actor who has Directing aspirations very soon after they start acting on the big screen. While Redford’s Directorial debut (Ordinary People (1980)) was the film which garnered him his first (and only) Oscar (for Best Director), he has made many contributions to the film world, both on and off the screen. And yet, it is important to understand where certain directors have come from, especially if their roots are based in acting in front of the camera, instead of directing from behind it. This week’s two films examine some exceptional Robert Redford roles.

The StingThe Sting
Year: 1973
Rating: PG
Length: 129 minutes / 2.15 hours

Even though Redford has been nominated for Best Director one other time (for Quiz Show (1994)), the only time he’s been nominated for an Acting Oscar was for his role in the 1973 Best Picture, The Sting. This might be surprising to some, considering that Redford has had many quintessential roles in films like All the President’s Men (1976), The Natural (1984), and Out of Africa (1985). Part of Redford’s charm, especially in his early career, came from his boyish good looks, and The Sting is no exception. After all, he wouldn’t have been cast as the Sundance Kid years earlier if he didn’t possess the look of a younger man. Fortunately, the looks matched the charisma. And if there’s anything that is truly needed in order to pull off a successful confidence scheme, it would have to be charisma.

In The Sting, Robert Redford portrays Johnny Hooker, a grifter and con man who has just crossed the wrong man. After completing a scam which garnered $11,000 for him and his team, he is chased to Chicago by Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw): the mobster who is now $11,000 poorer. Once in Chicago, he looks up famous and retired con man, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) and convinces him to take the mobster for much more. The FBI learns of this partnership and tries to use Hooker to get to Gondorff. Unfortunately, since Lonnegan is frustrated at being unable to find Hooker, he takes a hit out on the con man, which makes the game that much more dangerous. When larger and larger amounts of money end up being involved in a horse racing scam, the entire con is liable to explode into everyone shooting everyone else.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Year: 1969Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Rating: R
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours

Another key contribution that Robert Redford has made to the film industry was the founding of the Sundance Film Festival. Mainstream media may saturate the market, but you can always tell if an independent film can hold its own based on how well it does at Sundance. Of course, Sundance stems out of Redford’s love for Directing which, coincidentally enough, was an ambition which sprouted around the time he filmed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Thus, the origin of the name which is now tied to independent cinema was born. And yet, one wonders if the excellent on-screen chemistry of Robert Redford and Paul Newman spawned the duo to return to the screen four years later for another great buddy film: The Sting. Even though he had been in a few films before, this one in particular really defined Redford’s career.

Paul Newman is the Butch Cassidy to Redford’s Sundance Kid in this film about the outlaws of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang. After asserting his authority as leader of the group, Butch decides to do not one, but two train robberies on the Union Pacific. Even though the first robbery went well, the second one was botched when too much dynamite was used to blow open the safe (which was installed after the first robbery). While trying to hide from the authorities, the pair learns that they will be chased until they are killed, which causes them to jump into a canyon river in order to escape from one of the best trackers ever. Their escape leads them to Bolivia with Sundance’s lover, schoolteacher Etta Place (Katharine Ross). Unfortunately, they soon flip-flop between good and bad, eventually settling on what comes natural: bad.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Robert Redford roles

Bacon #: 2 (A River Runs through it (directed) / Brad Pitt -> Sleepers / Kevin Bacon)