Cool Hand Luke – Stuart Rosenberg (1967)

Cool Hand Luke is a 1967 American prison drama film directed by Stuart Rosenberg, starring Paul Newman and featuring George Kennedy in an Oscar-winning performance. Newman stars in the title role as Luke, a prisoner in a Florida prison camp who refuses to submit to the system. The film, set in the early 1950s, is based on Donn Pearce‘s 1965 novel of the same name. Pearce sold the story to Warner Bros., who then hired him to write the script. Due to Pearce’s lack of film experience, the studio added Frank Pierson to rework the screenplay. Newman’s biographer Marie Edelman Borden states that the ‘tough, honest’ script drew together threads from earlier movies, especially Hombre, Newman’s earlier film of 1967. The film has been cited by Roger Ebert as an anti-establishment film which was shot during the time of emerging popular opposition to the Vietnam War. Newman’s character, Lucas Jackson, is described (by the notorious ‘Captain’ upon his arrival at the prison), as a ‘free spirit’, whose personal record (read out loud because of its unusual details) indicates a man who started well in the US Army—receiving medals for bravery in ‘the war’—rose to the rank of Sergeant, yet was discharged as a ‘buck’ Private. Luke doesn’t question his physical incarceration, and initially has no thought of escape. But his spirit is not, like that of his fellow inmates, imprisoned. This free thinking is, from the outset, noticed by the institution, its functionaries (the guards), and especially its leaders. Their response is a mixture of both fear and loathing. So they retaliate against Luke through ‘physical punishment, psychological cruelty, hopelessness and equal parts of sadism and masochism.’ His influence on his prison mates and the torture that he endures is compared to that of Jesus, and Christian symbolism is used throughout the film, culminating in a photograph superimposed over crossroads at the end of the film in comparison to the crucifixion. Filming took place within California’s San Joaquin River Delta region; the set, imitating a prison farm in the Deep South, was based on photographs and measurements made by a crew sent to Road Prison in Gainesville, Florida by the filmmakers. Upon its release, Cool Hand Luke received favorable reviews and became a box-office success. The film cemented Newman’s status as one of the era’s top box-office actors, while the film was described as the ‘touchstone of an era.’ …”
15 Hardboiled Facts About Cool Hand Luke (Video)
Roger Ebert
YouTube: Cool Hand Luke – Trailer, Car Wash scene

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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