Harper (1966)

121 mins | Mystery | 22 February 1966

Director:

Jack Smight

Writer:

William Goldman

Cinematographer:

Conrad Hall

Editor:

Stefan Arnsten

Production Designer:

Alfred Sweeney

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures
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HISTORY

The 29 Mar 1965 DV announced that producer and Raymond Chandler aficionado Jerry Bick had acquired film rights to mystery writer Ross MacDonald’s The Moving Target, the first of eighteen novels that featured Southern California private detective “Lew Archer.” Published in 1949, The Moving Target had introduced Archer as a successor to Raymond Chandler’s “Philip Marlowe,” the subject at that time of four 1940s films, including The Big Sleep (1946, see entry). The 18 Aug 1965 LAT described MacDonald as “Chandler’s heir apparent as master of the complex plot and the eloquent evocation of the Southern California scene, high life and low life.” Jack Smight, who was picked to direct, told the 21 Apr 1965 Var that The Moving Target “will have flavor and style of mid-40s features.” It was set to be shot on the Warner Bros.’s Studio lot in Burbank, CA, where The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe, was filmed twenty years earlier, and would feature that film’s co-star, Lauren Bacall. Other locations would include the CA beach cities of Santa Barbara, CA (where Lew Archer was based), Newport Beach, and Hermosa Beach (where Smight hoped to film a jazz scene at the famous Lighthouse Club)—although none of them were ultimately used. The budget was $3 million, according to the 19 May 1965 Var, and Paul Newman was slated to star as Lew Archer at a salary of $750,000 “against 10%” of the film. By that time, the title had been changed to Archer. Producer Jerry Bick left the project during pre-production.
       Principal photography began ... More Less

The 29 Mar 1965 DV announced that producer and Raymond Chandler aficionado Jerry Bick had acquired film rights to mystery writer Ross MacDonald’s The Moving Target, the first of eighteen novels that featured Southern California private detective “Lew Archer.” Published in 1949, The Moving Target had introduced Archer as a successor to Raymond Chandler’s “Philip Marlowe,” the subject at that time of four 1940s films, including The Big Sleep (1946, see entry). The 18 Aug 1965 LAT described MacDonald as “Chandler’s heir apparent as master of the complex plot and the eloquent evocation of the Southern California scene, high life and low life.” Jack Smight, who was picked to direct, told the 21 Apr 1965 Var that The Moving Target “will have flavor and style of mid-40s features.” It was set to be shot on the Warner Bros.’s Studio lot in Burbank, CA, where The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe, was filmed twenty years earlier, and would feature that film’s co-star, Lauren Bacall. Other locations would include the CA beach cities of Santa Barbara, CA (where Lew Archer was based), Newport Beach, and Hermosa Beach (where Smight hoped to film a jazz scene at the famous Lighthouse Club)—although none of them were ultimately used. The budget was $3 million, according to the 19 May 1965 Var, and Paul Newman was slated to star as Lew Archer at a salary of $750,000 “against 10%” of the film. By that time, the title had been changed to Archer. Producer Jerry Bick left the project during pre-production.
       Principal photography began 7 Jun 1965 on the Warner Bros. lot, according to that day’s DV and a studio production chart in the 4 Jun 1965 DV. More than two months later, Jack Smight told the 20 Aug 1965 DV he expected to finish shooting that day. Smight claimed he filmed on twenty-three locations in the Los Angeles area and used the Burbank studio mostly for interiors. Among the locations were Malibu Canyon and “the old Marion Davies mansion” at 1011 N. Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, whose grounds the production refurbished at a cost of $7,000 instead of paying rental. (Also, Davies’s widower, Horace Brown, was given a small role as a bartender.) Other Los Angeles-area locations, as listed in the 14 Jul 1965 DV, 4 Aug 1965 Var, and 23 Feb 1966 LAT, included the Moonfire Temple at 2200 Tuna Canyon Road in Topanga Canyon, Westwood, Bel-Air, Trancas Beach in Malibu, Wrigley Field (a minor league baseball stadium south of downtown), Newhall, San Pedro, Terminal Island, and the Huntington Beach oil fields. Some location action scenes were filmed by assistant director James H. Brown with a second unit crew, while Smight filmed interiors with the “first unit” at the studio. By the time the film was completed, the budget had increased to $3.5 million.
       Harper was William Goldman’s first American-produced screenplay. He created Janet Leigh’s “Susan Harper” character, which did not exist in MacDonald’s book.
       Andre Previn was originally signed to score the film, but he stepped aside for Johnny Mandel, according to the 8 Sep 1965 DV. However, the film used Previn’s song, “Livin’ Alone,” written with his wife, Dory Previn.
       The 22 Oct 1965 DV reported that Warner Bros. retitled the film Paul Newman Is Harper, although this may have been a misprint. The name of Paul Newman’s character had in fact been changed from Lew Archer to “Lew Harper,” and the studio would use the tag line “Paul Newman Is Harper” to echo Paramount Pictures’ earlier “Paul Newman Is Hud” line promoting Hud (1963, see entry). Screenwriter William Goldman later suggested that the producers did not own the Lew Archer name beyond the one novel, and therefore could not have used it in sequels without buying the rights to further books. In any event, the title was ultimately shortened to Harper for the North American market, but remained The Moving Target elsewhere.
       The film opened in Los Angeles on 22 Feb 1966, as listed in the 20 Feb 1966 LAT, and in New York City on 30 Mar 1966, according to the review in the following day’s NYT.
       According to a 4 Jan 1967 Var list of “Big Rental Pictures of 1966,” Harper grossed $5.3 million in its first ten months of release.
       The hoped-for series of Lew Harper films did not materialize, and Newman reprised the role in only one other film, 1975’s The Drowning Pool, based on a Lew Archer novel of the same title. Producer Elliott Kastner later joined Jerry Bick, the original producer of The Moving Target, to make three Philip Marlowe films adapted from Chandler’s novels: The Long Goodbye (1973), Farewell, My Lovely (1975), and The Big Sleep (a 1978 remake, see entries). More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
29 Mar 1965
p. 10.
Daily Variety
12 Apr 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Jun 1965
p. 8.
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1965
p. 15.
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
8 Sep 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Oct 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1966
p. 3, 16.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jul 1965
Section K, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
18 Aug 1965
Section D, p. 9,
Los Angeles Times
20 Feb 1966
Section O, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
23 Feb 1966
Section C, p. 10.
New York Times
31 Mar 1966
p. 43.
Variety
21 Apr 1965
p. 13.
Variety
19 May 1965
p. 19.
Variety
4 Aug 1965
p. 4.
Variety
4 Jan 1967
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents
A Gershwin--Kastner Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Const coord
Painter
COSTUMES
Jewelry
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Supv hair stylist
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial supv
Scr supv
Unit pub
Stills
Craft service
STAND INS
Pamela Tiffin's stand-in
SOURCES
LITERARY
From the novel The Moving Target by Ross MacDonald (New York, 1949).
SONGS
Song: "Livin' Alone," words by Dory Previn, music by Andre Previn
[sung by Julie Harris].
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Titles:
The Moving Target
Archer
Paul Newman Is Harper
Release Date:
22 February 1966
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 22 February 1966
New York opening: 30 March 1966
Production Date:
7 June -- 20 August 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright Date:
24 January 1966
Copyright Number:
LP32660
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor®
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
121
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

While his estranged wife is planning divorce proceedings, private investigator Lew Harper takes on a new case on the recommendation of a long-time friend, attorney Albert Graves. Harper is asked to investigate the disappearance of the millionaire husband of Elaine Sampson, a crippled and bitter woman. At the Sampson estate, Harper also meets Elaine's spoiled stepdaughter, Miranda, and the Sampson's handsome private pilot, Alan Taggert. While searching the missing man's Los Angeles hotel suite, Harper finds a photograph of one-time starlet, Fay Estabrook. He tracks down the now plump and alcoholic Fay, gets her drunk, and takes her home. He searches her apartment and intercepts a phone call which leads him to a bar where he meets Betty Fraley, a drug-addicted singer. After being beaten up for asking too many questions, Harper visits a mountaintop site which Sampson gave to Claude, a religious fanatic. Later, Mrs. Sampson receives a ransom note, and Harper drops off the money, but Betty Fraley doublecrosses the kidnapers and intercepts the money. Harper then accuses Taggert of planning the kidnaping with Betty. Taggert draws a gun on Harper, but he is shot by Graves, who makes a timely appearance. Harper goes to Betty's apartment and finds her being tortured for the ransom money by Fay's husband, Dwight Troy, who is in league with Claude in smuggling Mexicans across the border. After killing Troy, Harper forces Betty to take him to the abandoned oil tanker where Sampson is being held prisoner. There, he and Graves find the body of the murdered millionaire. Betty attempts to escape, but she is killed when her car plummets down a cliff. Returning to the Sampson estate, Grave admits that ... +


While his estranged wife is planning divorce proceedings, private investigator Lew Harper takes on a new case on the recommendation of a long-time friend, attorney Albert Graves. Harper is asked to investigate the disappearance of the millionaire husband of Elaine Sampson, a crippled and bitter woman. At the Sampson estate, Harper also meets Elaine's spoiled stepdaughter, Miranda, and the Sampson's handsome private pilot, Alan Taggert. While searching the missing man's Los Angeles hotel suite, Harper finds a photograph of one-time starlet, Fay Estabrook. He tracks down the now plump and alcoholic Fay, gets her drunk, and takes her home. He searches her apartment and intercepts a phone call which leads him to a bar where he meets Betty Fraley, a drug-addicted singer. After being beaten up for asking too many questions, Harper visits a mountaintop site which Sampson gave to Claude, a religious fanatic. Later, Mrs. Sampson receives a ransom note, and Harper drops off the money, but Betty Fraley doublecrosses the kidnapers and intercepts the money. Harper then accuses Taggert of planning the kidnaping with Betty. Taggert draws a gun on Harper, but he is shot by Graves, who makes a timely appearance. Harper goes to Betty's apartment and finds her being tortured for the ransom money by Fay's husband, Dwight Troy, who is in league with Claude in smuggling Mexicans across the border. After killing Troy, Harper forces Betty to take him to the abandoned oil tanker where Sampson is being held prisoner. There, he and Graves find the body of the murdered millionaire. Betty attempts to escape, but she is killed when her car plummets down a cliff. Returning to the Sampson estate, Grave admits that he killed Sampson because of his hatred for the man and his love for young Miranda. He draws a gun on Harper but realizes that he cannot kill his friend. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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