[Movie Review] The Cincinnati Kid

cincinnati kid 2

The Weather today in Cin… Cinn… at… teeee…

The Cincinnati Kid was sitting in my DVD collection since last fall, demanding that I get to it.  Well, with this stellar line-up:

Steve McQueen
Edward G. Robinson
Karl Malden
Ann Margret

Directed by Norman Jewison (Canadian!)

…it seemed like a safe bet for me to start the month of May with a home run.  And it was.

The movie takes place in the 1930s New Orleans, but any actor on the screen under the age of 40 is sporting hairstyles and makeup of the ’60s.   Including Margret and McQueen.  But who cares?  They both look good.

cincinnati kid 3
WHAT. A. KNOCK. OUT! (Ann Marget looks pretty good too.)

Eric “The Kid” Stoner (Steve McQueen), is looking to take on Lancey “The Man” Howard (Edward G. Robinson) in a game of five-card stud.  Howard is a master and The Kid wants badly to beat him, build his reputation as the best.

Howard is up for it and arranges to have William Jefferson Slade (Rip Torn), a wealthy southern businessman put up the money to fund the few days it will take to play.  Slade and Howard follow up the deal with a 30-hour match of poker themselves, where Howard bests $6000 out of Slade.  Slade asks him how he was able to beat him so easily, and Howard replies, “Lessons are extra”.

Well, this pisses Slade right off, and he arranges for the dealer, Shooter (Karl Malden) to fix the game in The Kid’s favour.  Shooter refuses, not willing to put his reputation as a straight arrow on the line, but Slade eventually blackmails him with the $12,000 in markers Shooter owes to him.

As the big game wears on, and the players eventually dwindle down to just Howard and The Kid, and The Kid begins to notice that something is off.  He calls for a break and shakes the truth out of Shooter when the two are alone.  The Kid’s only choice now if he wants to legitimately defeat Howard, he has to take control of the game.

Despite Margret’s wonderful job at playing the femme fatale, this isn’t one for the women’s lib crowd.  The Kid’s girlfriend, Christian (Tuesday Weld) spends the entire movie aiming for The Kid’s approval to justify her existence.  It is kind of sad.  Ah well, we are at the start of the James Bond era, and not everything ages well.

I was stoked when I saw Rip Torn’s name come up on the opening credits, then forgot about him until I saw it again in the end credit.  Slade?…. Rip Torn played Slade?  Sure enough…

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…well, you have to forgive me for not recognizing him.

Now, if you’re thinking a lot of this sounds like The Hustler, you’re not wrong.  The Cincinnati Kid is based on a novel written by Richard Jessup, who freely admits to taking inspirtion from Paul Newman film.  He wanted to write a similar story that focused more on the gambling part of poker than the skilled part of pool.  I think he succeeded.

Norman Jewison’s directing is spot on too.  The movie is paced well, and his use of lighting had me wanting to see this in black and white.  I love this era of film making as the experiments with anit-heroes brought on some truly unique film making.  Not all of it worked, but it sure was fun when it did.  #MarsApproved






  1. It’s either a case of great minds thinking alike / fools seldom differing – I just referenced Jim Carrey’s “You’re good kid, real good” from The Mask (which I understand references a similar line from the Cincinnati Kid) in a post today!

    Liked by 1 person

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