The sensational kid

Posted on November 21, 2010


Hollywood has had its fair share of ruffians and rogues. All through the changing times and the contemporary scene.

One maverick who would always stand out in that list is Steve McQueen.

He is not celebrated today like Paul Newman, but Newman was his biggest professional rival. Newman is considered as a fine actor, blue eyed swooning audiences. But McQueen dominated the film industry that time.

Their cold battle for top billing in The Towering Inferno was widely publicised. Newman had a better role in that film, playing the role of Doug Roberts, the architect of the building which goes on fire.

Steve McQueen was offered that role, he wanted the role of fire chief O’Hallorhan, which was originally planned to be a  minor role. The story was re-worked and the role of the fire chief was given almost equal weightage as that of the architect and Newman was later casted for the same.

Moral Victroy for McQueen. He probably wanted to the fireman’s role since SFFD 5th Battalion Chief Michael O’ Hallorhan sounded much cooler than architect Doug Roberts. It was given to him.

As a kid, I was told McQueen was stylish, the real “Mr.Cool”. I have watched five McQueen films till date. He is not very expressively stylish like Cary Grant or Newman for that matter.

Style comes to him naturally. He is composed, raw mannerisms and brashness. It is not polished or flamboyant, yet appeals. The common man could associate himself with this, he could witness his identity in McQueen’s portrayals.

The Cincinnati Kid released in 1965 focuses on an upcoming poker player, Eric “The Kid” Stoner who is considered to be the best in New Orleans. Lancey Howard (Edward Robinson),  known as “The Man”, considered to be the best in business visits town and is informed about Stoner and a game is arranged.

Adapted from Richard Jessup‘s novel with same title, the film is set in a post depression period. The shots and scenes of New Orleans concentrate on the industries, the working class and rail roads – re-building of the economy and the mixed society – racial harmony.

The role seems natural for McQueen, the laid-back with youthful arrogance, dating a girl from the countryside.

would he beat the man ?

The first half of the movie is nothing more than a build up to the final game.

The game starting with 5 players, predictably the kid and the man have the stand-off.

Here is the spoiler, McQueen loses the game. His full house beaten by Howard’s straight flush.

How could the protagonist lose ? How ? I was baffled, McQueen lost.

“You’re good, Kid–but as long as I’m around you’ll always be second best,” says Howard after the game.

He lost to the best, he was the second best. He got an identity after the loss. Howard accepts Stoner was the best he played.

McQueen walks out thinking, what blew him in.

He meets the shoe shine kid (who is introduced in the first scene of the film, asking McQueen to have a penny pitch competition. McQueen wins, tells the kid he has a long way to go) .The shoe polish kid asks McQueen for another penny pitch after his loss to Lancey Howard, the shoe shinekid wins this time.

The lose to the shoe shine signifies the bigger lose.

Stoner lost the game but garnered respect, he has time, he could move on be the best.

The title The Cincinnati Kid is a reference to the place Eric Stoner hails from.

Posted in: Cinema, Review