Sunday, November 21, 2010

Movie Sunday: Cool Hand Luke

Picture from here

What we have here is failure ... to communicate.

This is undoubtedly the most famous line in this movie, delivered by one of the more memorable characters in movie history, but it is far from the best moment in this wonderful film. Cool Hand Luke has been one of my favorites since I first saw it as a teenager, and is still a great joy for me to watch, despite having seen it probably a dozen times.

First of all, we have a young Paul Newman playing an impossibly engaging anti-hero. If you've ever wondered why a whole generation of people have a thing for Paul Newman, watch this movie. Luke's confidence, humor, and indomitable spirit make this an unlikely feel-good movie, and sometimes makes women's pants fall down.

Also, the character actors do a wonderful job, especially George Kennedy, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Dragline. And of course, Strother Martin as the sadistic Captain. The memorable scenes are too numerous to, umm, remember them all. The fifty-egg bet and the one-day road project are probably my favorites.

Except for the sexiest car wash ever, that is. What Joy Harmon can do with a sponge and a bucket of soapy water is enough to make a young boy wish he were in prison. And the prisoners' reactions to it are priceless.

Picture from here

Cool Hand Luke is not all wet t-shirts and eating eggs, though. The film deals a lot with the darker side of humanity: brutality, sadism, and injustice, though most of the violence is pretty tame by today's standards. And in the end, it's a film about hope and the human spirit. At least that's what I get from it.

So if you haven't seen this one, stick it your queue or watch for it on TV. It's on every now and then. And if you have seen it, but it's been a while, watch it again. It's a treasure.


  1. "Ain't no man can eat 50 aigs"...

    this is my favorite film. did you know that the plot roughly follows the gospel according to st. matthew? just like godspell.

    you can peel Cool Hand Luke a thousand ways, each one more tasty than the last....

    "Lucille...". i'd almost bat for the other side exclusively for that woman washing the car...

  2. Speaking of Lucille, my favorite part of Sandlot is when they're watching Wendy Peppercorn lotioning up, and all the boys are quoting Cool Hand Luke.

    "She don't know what she's doin."

    "Yeah she does. She knows exactly what she's doin."

  3. As much as I adore this film for Newman - it pains me to watch the end for the cruelty you mention and the crushing way he's killed -- though I love his sly smile even as they drive him away...

  4. p.s. Your em isn't working. For two days what i have sent has been returned.