The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

The Cincinnati Kid (1965)The Cincinnati Kid is a film released in 1965 by MGM Films. The film follows tale of Eric "The Kid" Stone, a young poker player seeking to earn a reputation as a card shark during the Great Depression. He eventually challenges Lancey "The Man" Howard, considered to be the greatest poker player around.

The Cincinnati Kid stars Steve McQueen in the leading role, and received mixed reviews upon its release.

Cast and Crew of The Cincinnati Kid

Steve McQueen is cast as Eric "The Kid" Stoner, while Edward G. Robinson plays Lancey "The Man" Howard. Karl Malden plays The Kid’s pal Shooter. Rip Torn plays William Jefferson Slade, and Ann-Margret plays Shooter’s wife. Tuesday Weld is cast in the role of Christian, The Kid’s girlfriend. The cast is rounded out by Joan Blondell, Jack Weston, Cab Calloway, Theodore Marcuse, Milton Selzer, Karl Swenson, and Emile Genest.

The Cincinnati Kid was directed by Norman Jewison and produced by Martin Ransohoff. The film is based on a novel by Richard Jessup, though Ring Lardner Jr. and Terry Southern wrote the screenplay. Lalo Schifrin composed The Cincinnati Kid’s music, while Philip H. Lathrop and Hal Ashby handled the cinematography and editing, respectively. The film was released on October 15, 1965 with a running length of 102 minutes.

Plot Synopsis for The Cincinnati Kid

Steve McQueen plays the role of Eric "The Kid" Stone, a poker player looking to earn a reputation within the game. Stoner hears that "The Man," Lancey Howard is in town, and decides that he can earn a lot of respect by beating him. Shooter informs The Kid that he should be careful, as The Man bested him in a game of five-card stud the last time he was in town.

Howard arranges for a game against William Jefferson Slade, with Shooter acting as the dealer. The Man defeats Slade in a 30 hour game, taking $6,000 in winnings. That evening, Slade attempts to bribe Shooter to cheat for The Kid in the upcoming game between The Kid and The Man. Shooter declines the offer, causing Slade to call $12,000 in markers he holds against Shooter, and threatens to reveal unflattering information about Shooter’s wife Melba. Slade informs Shooter that he wants to cheat in order to ensure The Kid’s victory over The Man, as a form of revenge for Slade’s loss. Melba attempts to seduce The Kid when The Kid’s girlfriend Christian is out of town, but The Kid declines and spends the day before the final poker match with Christian.

The final poker match begins with six players, including The Kid, The Man, and Shooter, who is again acting as dealer. The Kid is short by $2,000 in the first example of heads-up play with The Man, and Slade stakes him the necessary cash. After a few hours, The Man knocks one of the players out by bluffing, and the players take a break. After the break, Lady Fingers (played by Joan Blondell) steps in as dealer.

The game continues, and is eventually down to just The Kid and The Man. Shooter is dealing at this point. The Kid enjoys a few lucky wins, and eventually realizes that Shooter is cheating in his favor. The players take another break, and The Kid asks Shooter why he’s cheating. Shooter informs him of Slade’s meddling, and The Kid tells him that he’d rather beat The Man with fair play. Melba successfully seduces The Kid at this point, and Christian walks in on the pair and leaves The Kid. The Kid insists that Lady Fingers resume as the dealer, in order to ensure fairness.

In the final hand, The Man is dealt an 8 of diamonds, and The Kid receives a Ten of clubs. The Kid opens the betting with $500, which The Man calls. The Man receives a Queen of diamonds, and the Kid gets a Ten of spades. The Kid pushes in $1,000, and The Man raises another grand. The Man gets a Ten of diamonds, and The Kids receives an Ace of clubs. The Kid pushes in $3,000 and gets called by The Man. Finally, The Man receives a 9 of diamonds and The Kid an Ace of spades. The Kid checks, and the Man bets a grand. The Kid goes all in with $3,500. The Man raises an additional $5,000. Howard’s final card is a Jack of diamonds, giving him a straight flush. The Kid reveals an Ace of hearts. The Man’s straight flush beats The Kid’s full house.

The Kid reunites with Christian following his defeat. In an alternate version of the The Cincinnati Kid, The Kid does not reunite with Christian.

Additional Notes on The Cincinnati Kid

The odds of both the straight flush and full house seen in the final hand of poker in The Cincinnati Kid appearing within a single hand are a staggering 332 billion to 1. Other strange poker occurrences happen in the movie. For example, Shooter says that string bets will not be permitted, yet players including The Man make string bets throughout the game. In addition, the game is played with open stakes. Open stakes are occasionally permitted in home games, but are typically illegal in casinos.

The film received mixed, though generally positive reviews upon being released in 1965. The Cincinnati Kid’s detractors usually cited the fact that the film was shockingly similar in plot and execution to The Hustler, while falling short of the standards set by the latter film. Blondell received a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Lady Fingers, in the category of Best Supporting Actress.

The Cincinnati Kid was released as a DVD in 2005. Recent reviews of the film have been considerably more favorable than at the time of The Cincinnati Kid’s original release.