Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Cool Hand luke is the moving character study of a non-conformist, anti-hero loner who bullheadedly resists authority and the Establishment. One of the film's posters carried a tagline related to the character's rebelliousness: "The man...and the motion picture that simply do not conform." With this vivid film, director Stuart Rosenberg made one of the key films of the 1960s, a decade in which protest against established powers was a key theme. One line of the film's dialogue from Strother Martin is often quoted: "What we have here is...failure to communicate."
This superb, crowd-pleasing film was based upon a screenplay co-authored by ex-convict Donn Pearce (and Frank R. Pierson), from Pearce's own novel of the same name. The main character was inspired by real-life convicted safecracker Donald Graham Garrison. The chain-gang prison film (e.g., I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932)) has a long history in American films, and this one also provided entertaining performances, especially with Paul Newman in one of his best roles as Luke, after playing similar anti-heroes in The Hustler (1961) and Hud (1963). Other stars who played convicts in the chain gang in smaller roles included Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton, Ralph Waite, Wayne Rogers, Joe Don Baker, and Anthony Zerbe.

Cinema poster from the 1967 classic

Rich religious symbolism, references and imagery are deeply embedded within the narrative, with some critics arguing that Luke represents a modern-day, messianic Christ figure who ministers to a group of disciples and refuses to give up under oppression. The film's theme - of an outsider-protagonist who transforms the occupants of a Southern chain gang institution and tragically sacrifices himself at the end - resembles the hero in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Actor (Paul Newman, who lost to Rod Steiger in In the Heat of the Night (1967)), Best Supporting Actor (George Kennedy in a break-out role), Best Adapted Screenplay (Donn Pearce and Frank R. Pierson), and Best Original Music Score (Lalo Schifrin) and won only for Best Supporting Actor.

Video Clip

Strother Martin as Captain

Classic Quotes ( just click on link to listen to quote)

George Kennedy as Dragline ... "Hey Lord, whatever I done, don't strike me blind for another couple of minutes."

Strother Martin as Captain ... "What we got here is failure to communicate. Some man 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 and I don't like it any more than you man."

Paul Newman as Lucas (Luke) Jackson ... "Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand"

Luke Askew as Boss Paul ... "That ditch is Boss Kean's ditch and I told him that dirt in it is your dirt. What's your dirt doing in his ditch?"
Luke ... "I don't know boss."
Boss Paul ... "You better get in there and get it out boy."

??? ... "What we got here is a failure to communicate." (gunshot follows)

Home