Another favorite subject of mine, movie wise, is Confidence Games.
The all-time leader in Con Game movies is, without a doubt, “The Sting” with Redford and Newman, but there are some other nice ones.
I also want to eliminate the sleek, sophisticated long-con movies such as “Oceans Eleven,” “Now You See Me,” “American Hustle,” and even “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Trading Places” (two favorites of mine).
I’m talking about the low-life, hustle-for-a-buck con men, guys who can end up dead in the alley when it goes bad, not sent to prison (“Wall Street”) or forced to work for the authorities (“Catch Me If You Can”).
Street hustlers, guys who live in seedy motels and steal the tip from the booth next to them at the diner. THOSE kinds of guys.
A couple of recent ones you may have missed are “Matchstick Men” and “The Grifters.”
In 2003’s “Matchstick Men,” Nic Cage and Sam Rockwell are a couple of two-bit hucksters whose world is upset when the daughter of Cage’s character turns up out of nowhere. Both Cage and Rockwell are excellent as usual, and Cage’s character’s idiosyncrasies as an obsessive-compulsive agoraphobe are fun to watch.
“The Grifters” (1990) stars John Cusack and Anjelica Huston — a son and mother whose separate con games show the results of hustles gone bad. The movie is based on a fantastic novel by Hollywood screenwriter Jim Thompson.
A couple of my favorites involve Great Depression era hustlers, “The Flim-Flam Man” (1967) with George C. Scott and a young Michael Sarrazin, and the classic “Paper Moon” (1973) with Ryan and (9-year-old daughter) Tatum O’Neal.
In “The Flim-Flam Man,” Scott and Serrazin are veteran and protégé and the sorrowful tale illustrates the life of the grifter, but the movie is greatly enhanced with the beauty of Sue Lyons and the over-acting of Harry Morgan as the sheriff.
One of the all-time great movies of the Depression, “Paper Moon” follows a snazzy, shiftless heart-throb (O’Neal) as he tries to ignore his daughter and continue his criminal lifestyle, and well as his lothario ways. This includes a romantic interlude with Madeline Kahn, who is also great in the movie.
There are also a million other movies that feature subplots involving con games, and also a couple (at least) of small screen Con Artist shows from times gone by.
While technically a “thief,” not a con man series, “Leverage” (2008-2012) stars Tim Hutton as a former insurance fraud investigator who runs a team of con artists who rectify situations where innocents have been ripped off. They seldom personally benefit from their cons, but direct the proceeds back to those who have lost everything.
“Maverick” (1957-1962), the classic 1960s con game television show, stars both Jack Kelly and James Garner as the Maverick brothers, with Kelly (as Bart) actually starring in more episodes, although Garner (as Bret) became the star that is most remembered. Roger Moore was also featured (as cousin Beauregard) in several episodes.
The movie “Maverick” (1994) with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster was a very well done large-screen version, although Gibson is no James Garner. Garner did arrive late in this movie and had more likability and stage presence than Gibson could ever hope for.
Confidence Games always will make great plots for movies (and we didn’t even get into the POLITICAL ones) and I look forward to more great ones to come. As should we all.