This 1961 movie, made by Robert Rossen as an adaptation of Walter Tevis' novel, is probably the best work Paul Newman ever did. It may also be one of the best roles in which Jackie Gleason was ever cast. It begins slowly, and it's a bit long, but if you stay with this movie you get a sense of betrayal and redemption in the musky din of a pool hall.
Newman plays Fast Eddie, a pool hustler from California who has come a long way to conquer the best straight pool player alive, Minnesota Fats (an actual person, and a living legend in his own right). Fats is played by Gleason in one of his most understated performances.
Eddie does well at the table, but can't hold his liquor as well as Fats. George C. Scott's character, Bert Gordon, tags Fast Eddie as a born loser. This is the crux of the movie. Can Fast Eddie overcome this seemingly terminal condition.
Piper Laurie plays the love interest, an alcoholic blue blood who doesn't fare to well in Eddie's world of dingy bars and seedy poolrooms. This film would have never worked in color; black and white is a wonderful medium for such a dark story.
For those interested in film as an art form, this is a must-see.