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In a drunken, late night stupor, Luke Jackson (Paul Jackson) is arrested for cutting the tops off of a row of parking meters cool hand posterand sentenced to hard time in the prison chain gang. There his rebellious spirit makes him a favorite among the inmates and a target of the sadistic warden, who makes the escape inclined Luke a target of his brutality. Stuart Rosenberg's "Cool Hand Luke" features Newman's incomparable, iconic performance in a well-made film that often indulges in an overuse of symbolism. George Kennedy, an Oscar winner for a supporting performance I thought was aces as a kid, now seems screening gnashingly over the top while Jo Van Fleet is quite good in a one scene performance as Newman's sickly mother.

Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Cast: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Jo Van Fleet
Rated: PG
Run Time: 126 minutes
Genre: Drama


Classic Film Guide

The best prison drama ever? Undoubtedly! Paul Newman in the title role of Lucas ‘Luke’ Jackson (AFI’s #30 hero) received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination and George Kennedy won the Best Supporting cool hand4 450Actor Oscar for playing the tough Dragline who’s at first at odds with newcomer Luke until he sees the man’s “never give up” fight in their mismatched boxing bout. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg it was adapted for the screen by the novel’s author Donn Pearce with help from Frank Pierson (Cat Ballou (1965)); the screenplay and the movie’s music score (Lalo Schifrin’s first of six unrewarded nominations) were also nominated. Added to the National Film Registry in 2005. #71 on AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies list. “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate” is #11 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes list.

Newman plays an aimless (formerly decorated war hero) guy who gets drunk one night and cuts the tops off a whole street’s worth of parking meters which lands him in a Southern jail on a chain gang (that includes cool handseveral recognizable actors: J.D. Cannon Lou Antonio Dennis Hopper Wayne Rogers Harry Dean Stanton Ralph Waite and an uncredited Joe Don Baker in his film debut among them). After the aforementioned struggle with Dragline and a similarly stubborn ‘battle of wits’ with the warden – Captain played by Strother Martin who utters the film’s oft-repeated and celebrated quote – Luke becomes the object of hero worship among his fellow prisoners especially after he makes good on a crazy-ass boast that he can eat 50 eggs and later escapes twice (though he’s recaptured each time). Taken to the extreme (especially in the end) Newman’s character is symbolized as a Christ-like figure. Jo Van Fleet plays Luke’s dying mother while Clifton James Morgan Woodward ("the man with no eyes") and Anthony Zerbe (also his first film as Dog Boy) are among the Captain’s staff; Joy Harmon plays "The Girl" in the famous soapy car wash scene.