Imagine that 1973’s The Sting, which earned the 2022 equivalent of over a billion dollars and won seven Academy Awards (including Best Picture), had never been made, and that David Ward‘s genius-level screenplay has been crafted by some young present-day hotshot.

Would it be produced by one of the studios, or by Netflix or Amazon or some other deep-pocket streamer?

A 2022 version of The Sting might get made, sure, but what are the odds that Ward’s original screenplay — a perfect Swiss watch, flawless of its kind, an Oscar-awarded jewel — would be filmed without significant changes?

My gut tells me that the rough-and-tumble social realism would be jettisoned. And that the casting would be subject to the usual presentism standards, meaning that one of the two male leads, Paul Newman‘s Henry Gondorff and Robert Redford‘s Johnny Hooker in the original film, would probably have to be played by an actor of color.

Yes, even though it’s set in 1934 Chicago, when racism was as common as dirt and factory soot and Robert Shaw‘s Doyle Lonnegan, a tough, old-school Irish mobster, would’ve never trusted a non-white hustler with any amount of his betting money. As Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones) confesses to Hooker in Act One of the film, “Ain’t no rich boy gonna trust a hungry [racial epithet] enough to be conned.”

Am I wrong? Would any producer or distributor have the stones to produce The Sting as is, or would they be obliged to make certain changes so as not to be frowned upon by progressives? It’s a fair question, surely.