The 1986 film The Color of Money is the sequel to Robert Rossen’s 1961 classic, The Hustler. Both films feature the suave pool hustler named “Fast Eddie” Felton (Paul Newman) who is the long-reigning king of the pool hall. The Color of Money now brings Fast Eddie 25 years into the future and resting on his legendary status amongst far inferior pool players. Eddie is now a part time liquor salesman who keeps his eye on pool and hustling by staking out players of interest. Eddie discovers the infantile and brash Vincent (Tom Cruise)- a young man who’s skills are not unlike that of Eddie’s. Soon Eddie takes Vincent under his wing, along with Vincent’s tough-talking girlfriend, Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Vincent is a pool playing wizard, but his character is weak- he’s likeable, but arrogant, skillful but naive. Eddie tries to harness Vincent’s ability (as well as his own experience) en route to a spectacular nine-ball tournament in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The film, which was directed by Martin Scorcese, is a 1980’s showpiece for Newman and Cruise. Both actors give star turns (especially Cruise) and it’s a pleasure to watch the old master and the young student square off against one another in the national tournament. Ultimately, the important thing is not who wins, but the exploration of these two characters and the melodrama that ensnares them both.
Although the film received four Oscar nominations (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Art Direction), all eyes were on Paul Newman who took home the Oscar for Best Actor in a year that boasted such contenders as Bob Hoskins, William Hurt, James Woods, and Dexter Gordon. This nomination marked the 7th for Paul Newman in a career that spanned a total of six decades. The win put him in an elite group all by himself. Newman became the first (and only) actor to win an Oscar for reprising a role in a sequel. With his Oscar, Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward, became the second married couple to win acting Oscars- the first couple to accomplish this was Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
The film’s second acting nomination went to Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, nominee, (141), who was recognized for her role as Vincent’s girlfriend Carmen, an all-business kind of woman who spreads her time between flirting with Eddie and massaging young Vince’s cue stick. This was Mastrantonio’s sole Oscar nomination of her career. Mastroantonio lost the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress to Dianne Wiest in Woody Allen’s Hannah & Her Sisters.