Monday, March 30, 2015

Memorable Con-Trick Movies

Last Sunday, while in Alamogordo NM, we went to the flicks, saw Focus, starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie. It's an entertaining story about confidence tricksters. Nice change from the current trends for mega-slam-bangers and Young-Adult-style dystopias.

Con games have long been a popular theme for movies, and books - in fact con games have been part of life too - though far less entertaining when they're for real! There's a little more about confidence tricksters in general partway down an archived post HERE.

My most memorable movies (or TV fare) with con-trick themes:

First memory surfacing is from the wonderful 1970s TV mini-series based on James Michener's long novel, Centennial. In part of the story, in late 19th century Colorado, Mervin Wendell (Anthony Zerbe), his wife Maude (Lois Nettleton), and young son Philip (Doug McKeon) arrive in Centennial. They appear to be itinerant actors but turn out to be charlatans and con-artists working their way across the new railroad towns a step ahead of the law. Their favorite con is called the "badger game".


An earlier movie (1966), not seen by me until later on has remained clearly in memory: Big Hand for the Little Lady - it stars Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards. The con involved here is part of another popular film theme - the card game.

Another -

The Skin Game (1971) with James Garner and Louis Gossett features a con game involving the slave trade. This sounds like a very unpleasant idea, yet in the hands of James Garner and Louis Gossett the film turned out to be one of my favourites of this genre.

Later on -

Primal Fear (1996) with Richard Gere and Edward Norton stayed in memory, mostly due to its ending - and Ed Norton's great acting. It's not a typical con trickster story, but comes within that broad category....as does


The Producers
(1967) - an old Mel Brooks film seen very recently on Netflix. Not typically con-trickster fare but involves a memorable con-trick.

There are lots more, but those are the ones wedged securely in my own memory banks. Are any wedged in yours - including films, books and confidence tricks in general?

12 comments:

Sonny G said...



I've seen Primal Fear 3 times and still the plot and acting is amazing to me.. On my third and my daughters first showing it was soooooo hard to keep quiet:) she loved it too ~!
Surely in new age terms Norton would not be none as just an actor, but as a shape shifter, supreme... spooky sort of. There's another movie that effected me the same way- though the premise was entirely different. I need to go see if I can find the name of it .. If I do, I'll be back..

Sonny G said...


the movie is :: Identity / john cusack and ray liotta. its fabulous is an odd and scary way. The human mind in both movies astounds me.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Ed Norton is always excellent in every part he plays - whenever I see his name in a cast I know we're in for a treat. :-)

I think we've seen "Identity" - I remember the group staying at a creepy roadside motel, and John Cusack, but the rest of the plot hasn't stuck in memory - I read Wiki's page on the film, and remembered some of it. Yes - adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel - classic "who done it" with a defined group of people to choose from. It's from movies of that type that the line "the butler did it" came...lol
:-)
Shall watch "Identity" again sometime.

mike said...

Confidence and-or lack of tends to be a theme in virtually all literature and tales of human interactions. It pairs nicely with beauty, wealth, romance, and politics.

I'm not much of a movie buff, but here are two movie lists from the internet:

http://www.moviecus.com/theme/movies-about-self-esteem

http://theconfidenceguyonline.com/2009/02/feel-good-motivational-movies/

I've mentioned previously that I think the position of the natal Moon plays a strong role toward the individual's perception of their world. I've noticed that there are two types of Moon-based personalities:
1) The world is mine...Moon from new to full...their personality is dominant over others
2) Where do I fit-in...Moon from after full to new, particularly strong when balsamic Moon...personality that recognizes social structure
As you indicate, other chart features and environmental aspects will buffer or strengthen the tendency.

I recently had an odd conversation with a friend that is peripheral to the con-trick of your post that may be off the mark or not. Her sister has a dominate, con-trick personality; her mother supplied breast milk to this sister while sharing the milk with another child whose mother died shortly after birth, and there wasn't sufficient for both. My brother has a dominant, con-trick personality and my mother was malnourished and couldn't produce enough breast milk for him...my mother said that she felt so guilty and that my brother cried and cried. I have no idea whether the conditions surrounding the mother of the newborn contribute to con-trickery, but perhaps...the child feeling deprived and making-up by conniving others later in life.

I was a bashful, insecure, introverted child, demonstrably without confidence and it seemed to be reinforced at every juncture in my youth. Balsamic Moon, Mars sq Saturn, with Sun, Mercury, and Venus all at the mid-point (semi-square). I've persevered and in mid-life found my footing, gained confidence through personal and professional endeavors. I'm more extroverted now, not intimidated by others, and I'm not susceptible to class or social structure positioning. I feel like a success story...LOL.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - "The Wizard of Oz" is a classic from my childhood replete with the confidence and con-trickery storyline.

Anonymous said...

"The name's Lonnegan ... DOYLE Lonnegan!"

"You're gonna remember that, Mr. Shaw ..."
"Or you're gonna get yourself another game."

kidd.

Sabina said...

I enjoyed 'Harry in Your Pocket', a wonderful little gem starring the always charming James Coburn, superbly supported by Walter Pidgeon, Michael Sarrazin and Trish van de Vere.
Favorite conman character has to be Allardyce T. Meriweather, snake oil salesman in Little Big Man, and played in the film version by Martin Balsam.
Gee, Twilight, be careful you don't end up like Mr. Meriweather ;P

Twilight said...

mike ~ The personality/mentality/astrology of a person capable of really serious confidence tricks has to be extremely complex, I guess. Criminal intent, illusion, delusion,
shrewdness, timing, creativity, mental acuity....and more would be needed.

For less serious, small-time, types of con-tricksters, maybe of the type you mention I dare say your theory could feed in to the rest of the mix. Interesting thought!

I think my childhood personality was much as you describe yours, but my Moon (I think) was 1st Quarter. I first "found my feet" around age 18 and footing increased gradually from then on. (Until last week when I temporarily lost 'em) ;-)

"Wizard of Oz" - yes, good example - I've been intending to acquire a copy of the book and read it - it was never part of my youthful reading, I know the tale mainly from the movie, but realise there was much missing.

Twilight said...

Anon/kidd ~ Oh yes! A true classic con-trick movie, "The Sting". Memorable music in that one too!
:-)

Twilight said...

Sabina ~ Oooh! - "Harry in your Pocket", now there's one I must seek out, hadn't heard of it and sounds good!

"Little Big Man" - I saw that (on TV) many years ago and have only vague memories of Dustin Hoffman in it. That's one for a re-viewing, definitely, for I do remember that I enjoyed the film.

Looked up Mr Meriweather to refresh memory:

Jack Crabbe:
Meriweather was one of the smartest men I ever knowed, but he tended to lose parts of himself. When I joined him, his left hand and his left ear were already gone.
During my years with Meriweather,
he lost an eye as a result of a fifth ace dropping out his sleeve in a poker game. It didn't faze him, though. Deception was his life's blood, even if it caused him to get whittled down kind of gradual like.


LOL!

I didn't recall him at all, but he sounds like the classic early American con-man - it seems they were part of the old west's scenery!

mike (again) said...

One of the best con-artists:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/tourism/11496376/Artist-who-took-1in-rock-off-Scafell-Pikes-summit-vandalised-Englands-highest-mountain.html

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Dang! Vandal, not artist, not even a con-artist, one of those would need to be much cleverer and probably wouldn't even consider desecrating (even in some minor way) a natural memorial to fallen soldiers. Grrr!

The summit was donated to the National Trust in 1919 by Lord Leconfield "in perpetual memory of the men of the Lake District who fell for God and King, for freedom peace and right in the Great War 1914 – 1918 .