WHO REMEMBERS THIS GREAT MOVIE; 'COOL HAND LUKE?'
Cool Hand Luke is a 1967 American prison drama film directed by Stuart Rosenberg and starring Paul Newman. The screenplay was adapted by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson from Pearce's 1965 novel of the same name. The film features George Kennedy, Strother Martin, J.D. Cannon and Morgan Woodward.
Newman stars in the title role as Luke, a prisoner in a Florida prison camp who refuses to submit to the system. In 2005, the United States Library of Congress deemed Cool Hand Luke to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Lucas Jackson (Paul Newman) is arrested for cutting the heads off a small town's parking meters one drunken night in the early 1960's. He is sentenced to two years in prison and sent to a Florida prison camp, run by the heartless Captain (Strother Martin). Luke is revealed to be a decorated Korean War veteran. The screen play and the scene's direction begins the introduction and exposition of the uniqueness of his character to this setting, by the reaction to the reading of the record of inmate Lucas Jackson. He was a decorated Korean War hero; who, was promoted up from the ranks to Sergeant; but who left the service just as he had entered, a “buck” Private. Luke further introduces his character by his “off-hand” explanation of the bravery, promotions and demotions as, “I guess I was just passing time, Captain.”
Luke fails to observe the established pecking order among the prisoners and quickly runs afoul of the prisoners' de facto leader Dragline (George Kennedy). The pair spar, with the prisoners and guards watching. Although Luke is severely outmatched by the larger Dragline, he repeatedly refuses to stay down and eventually Dragline refuses to fight further. Luke suffers a beating but wins the respect of Dragline and the rest of the prison population. Later, Luke wins a poker game on a bluff with a worthless hand. Luke comments that "sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand," and Dragline promptly bestows on him the nickname "Cool Hand Luke."
After a visit from his mother and nephew (Eddie Rosson), he becomes more optimistic about his situation. Despite the brutal conditions within the camp, including hard physical labor and extended time in "the box" (a harsh solitary confinement used to punish disobedient prisoners), Luke demonstrates an unquenchable spirit and the other prisoners begin to idolize him, particularly after he wins a spur-of-the moment bet that he can eat fifty hard-boiled eggs in one hour. Luke continually circumvents the authority of the Captain and the prison-guard "Bosses" led by Boss Godfrey (Morgan Woodward) and his sense of humor and independence in the face of incarceration prove contagious and inspiring to the other prisoners. This struggle for influence comes to a head when Luke leads the work crew in a seemingly impossible effort to complete a road-paving job in a single day, in defiance of convention and expectations. Luke becomes recognized as a trouble-maker by the prison authorities. News of his mother's death reaches Luke and the Captain locks him in the box instead of sending him to work, anticipating that Luke might attempt escape in order to attend his mother's funeral. After this, Luke becomes determined to escape. After an initial escape attempt under the cover of a Fourth of Julycelebration, he is recaptured by local police and fitted with leg irons to prevent further attempts. Upon Luke's returning, the Captain delivers a warning speech to the other inmates, beginning with the famous line, "What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it... well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men."
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