Cool Hand Luke
Release year: 1967
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Screenwriter: Donn Pearce, Frank Pierson, Hal Dresner, Donn Pearce (novel)
Starring: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, J. D. Cannon, Lou Antonio, Robert Drivas, Strother Martin, Jo Van Fleet, Clifton James
Ratings: 1 Oscar: Best Supporting Actor (George Kennedy), 3 Oscar nominations: Best Actor (Paul Newman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score. 2 Golden Globes nominations: Best Actor Drama (Paul Newman), Best Supporting Actor (George Kennedy).
Laid back southern man Luke (Newman) is sentenced to two years in prison. Unwilling to submit to the system he refuses to reform and spends most his time planning and/or escaping prison, much to the admiration of his prison mates. But the camp staff works hard at breaking the fighter.
This prison drama from 1967, based on the novel by Donn Pearce, is a perfect example of how the claustrophobic prison milieu is perfect for human drama. The story has a very honest feel, giving a good impression on prison life and, not at least, the strong bond made between the in-mates. The movie is one of the movies that together with Hud (1963), The Hustler (1961) and Butch Cassidy and the Kid (1969) made Newman into a genuine super star, both caused by his incredible good look and famous blue eyes, but also because of sheer talent. A talent he also shows here, where he brings Luke to life as a fully embodied person with heart and soul and plenty of attitude. In his hands, it is easy to understand why the other prisoners sees him as their hero, we certainly share their opinion. With the lower class admiration, the torturous treatment he goes through and Luke speaking to God as well as some of the songs, brings thoughts to Christian symbolism and adds to the sympathy for the character. Among the wonderful versatile support characters, Kennedy (Airport, 1970), as the Oscar proves, stands out with his charismatic performance. Especially in the first half, as Newman’s character is new and holds a low profile, he dominates the movie. But there is no doubt that Newman is the star of the movie and it is definitely one of the actor’s stronger performances. He shows enormous screen presences and keeps you captured while appearing incredibly laid back. The cinematography of the movie is great. The heat in the scenes comes of as punishing, adding power to the chain gang scenes. There is strong hope in the movie, as Luke denies to give up and Luke’s struggle is strongly emphasized by the power performance by Newman. Not just one of the better prison dramas but one of the better dramas of its time!
Two hundred hard-boiled eggs were provided for one of the film’s most famous sequences. Due to clever editing, Paul Newman only ate about eight altogether. The rest were consumed by the cast and crew, which led to extreme cases of flatulence the next day.
One of Paul Newman’s instructions to writers Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson was that they did not tailor the script for him. He wanted a part that would really stretch him and not just play to his strengths.
A Southern prison camp was built for this movie just north of Stockton, CA. A dozen buildings were constructed, including a barracks, mess hall, warden’s quarters, guard shack and dog kennels.
Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video