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Cool Hand Luke (1967, Paul Newman, George Kennedy)

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Cool Hand Luke stars Paul Newman in a performance of almost iconic proportions as he plays the drifter whose bucking against the system finds him sent to prison.

Newman plays Lucas “Cool Hand” Jackson, who, in an act of drunken rebellion, decides to cut off all the parking meters in a small Southern town’s main street, an act that sends him straight to jail. Once inside his disruptive ways land him ever harsher punishments until by the end of the movie, a final inevitable toll has been taken.

Co-written by Donn Pearce from his own novel and directed by Stuart Rosenberg, CHL, in all its crisp widescreen wondrousness, is a superb film full of classic and memorable scenes (the egg eating contest, the fight with George Kennedy’s oscar winning Dragline, the girl in the clingy dress) and brilliant dialogue. On top of all that, it is completely owned by Newman, his piercing eyes and astonishing good looks drawing you to him with every frame he is in.

Newman was already a major star by this time but this movie turned him into an icon and Luke, like any self respecting anti establishment hero of the 60’s doesn’t really explain (and doesn’t need to) his motives for what he does but the rights of the individual to be an individual is a sentiment that still stands up today, more so in fact with the way that corporate branding is on the verge of turning us all into interchangable clones.

Stunningly good then (small wonder it was nominated for four oscars – best music, best screenplay, best actor and best supporting actor, in the end only taking out best support for George Kennedy).

production details
USA | 126 minutes | 1967

Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Script: Frank Pierson, Donn Pearce

cast
Paul Newman as Luke Jackson
George Kennedy as Dragline
Luke Askew as Boss Paul
Morgan Woodward as Boss Godfrey
Harry Dean Stanton as Tramp
Dennis Hopper as Babalugats
Lou Antonio as Koko
Robert Drivas as Loudmouth Steve
Strother Martin as Captain
Jo Van Fleet as Arletta
Clifton James as Carr
Marc Cavell as Rabbitt
Richard Davalos as Blind Dick
Robert Donner as Boss Shorty
J. D. Cannon as Society Red
Joe Don Baker as Fixer
James Gammon as Sleepy
Chuck Hicks as Chief
Rance Howard as Sheriff
James Jeter as Wickerman
Joy Harmon as The Girl
Anthony Zerbe as Dog Boy
Warren Finnerty as Tattoo
John McLiam as Boss Keen
Wayne Rogers as Gambler
Charles Tyner as Boss Higgins
Ralph Waite as Alibi
Buck Kartalian as Dynamite
Kim Kahana as Convict (uncredited)
Donn Pearce as Sailor (uncredited)
John Pearce as John (uncredited)
Rush Williams as Patrolman (uncredited)

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