Cool Hand Luke (1967)

126 mins | Drama | 1 November 1967

Director:

Stuart Rosenberg

Producer:

Gordon Carroll

Cinematographer:

Conrad Hall

Editor:

Sam O'Steen

Production Designer:

Cary Odell

Production Company:

Jalem Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

On 25 Aug 1965, LAT announced that Jack Lemmon’s Jalem Productions purchased the motion picture rights to Donald Pearce’s new novel, Cool Hand Luke, as the first of six projects the company would produce for Columbia Pictures. According to the 8 Nov 1966 LAT, Cool Hand Luke was a semi-factual account of Pearce’s experience in a Florida chain gang before he went on to become a merchant seaman and fiction writer.
       The following spring, a 12 May 1966 DV item stated that Jalem had moved the property to Warner Bros. Pictures, which the 18 May 1966 Var claimed was necessary to fulfill Paul Newman’s existing contract with the studio. However, a conflicting account in the 26 Nov 1967 LAT indicated the switch was made due to an “amicable disagreement” between Columbia and producer Gordon Carroll and director Stuart Rosenberg. According to a 7 Jan 1968 NYT article, Rosenberg, known for his work as a television director, read Pearce’s book and was drawn to the character of “Luke Jackson” as an “existentialist hero” previously unseen in American literature. Pearce worked on the script with screenwriter Frank R. Pierson, and an 8 Nov 1966 LAT stated that novelist Hal Dresner contributed “some changes within the basic structure” later in production. Dresner is not credited onscreen or in any contemporary reviews.
       Despite some early speculation that Lemmon would star in the lead role, the 14 May 1966 LAT reported the casting of Paul Newman, who joined the project after reading Pearce’s source material. Although the 13 Jun 1966 DV suggested ... More Less

On 25 Aug 1965, LAT announced that Jack Lemmon’s Jalem Productions purchased the motion picture rights to Donald Pearce’s new novel, Cool Hand Luke, as the first of six projects the company would produce for Columbia Pictures. According to the 8 Nov 1966 LAT, Cool Hand Luke was a semi-factual account of Pearce’s experience in a Florida chain gang before he went on to become a merchant seaman and fiction writer.
       The following spring, a 12 May 1966 DV item stated that Jalem had moved the property to Warner Bros. Pictures, which the 18 May 1966 Var claimed was necessary to fulfill Paul Newman’s existing contract with the studio. However, a conflicting account in the 26 Nov 1967 LAT indicated the switch was made due to an “amicable disagreement” between Columbia and producer Gordon Carroll and director Stuart Rosenberg. According to a 7 Jan 1968 NYT article, Rosenberg, known for his work as a television director, read Pearce’s book and was drawn to the character of “Luke Jackson” as an “existentialist hero” previously unseen in American literature. Pearce worked on the script with screenwriter Frank R. Pierson, and an 8 Nov 1966 LAT stated that novelist Hal Dresner contributed “some changes within the basic structure” later in production. Dresner is not credited onscreen or in any contemporary reviews.
       Despite some early speculation that Lemmon would star in the lead role, the 14 May 1966 LAT reported the casting of Paul Newman, who joined the project after reading Pearce’s source material. Although the 13 Jun 1966 DV suggested that Peter Falk was considered for a role, he does not appear in the final film. The 9 Nov 1966 Var announced that Vivian Savoy, a waitress for the Harper & Green film catering service, was set to make her screen debut, but her participation could not be confirmed. Several supporting actors previously worked with Rosenberg in television.
       According to the 15 Aug 1966 DV, the cast would undergo two weeks of rehearsals before beginning principal photography on 3 Oct 1966. Although filmmakers initially considered using the novel’s original Florida settings, location shooting took place in Stockton, CA, and the surrounding Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta area. The unit was expected to remain in Stockton for five weeks before returning to Burbank, CA, for an additional six weeks on the Warner Bros. studio lot. A 28 Feb 1968 Var brief listed 14 Dec 1966 as the final day of filming.
       A 21 Apr 1967 DV item stated that sound looping was not required in post-production, due to the successful use of wireless radio microphones. Although not named onscreen, the 10 Apr 1967 DV credited the Jester Hairston Choir, a black spiritual group, for performing Lalo Schifrin’s score.
       In early 1967, Warner Bros. merged with Seven Arts Productions to become Warner Bros—Seven Arts, Inc. That spring, the 17 May 1967 Var reported that the distributor planned to host early trade screenings of Cool Hand Luke and The Bobo (1967, see entry) in thirty-eight cities on 24 May 1967. Later that fall, however, a 6 Sep 1967 Var item stated that Warner Bros.—Seven Arts, Inc., refused a request from the New York Film Festival selection committee to submit the film for consideration, claiming that the event would generate “critical comment” too far ahead of its scheduled theatrical release.
       The picture opened 1 Nov 1967 at New York City’s Loew’s State Theatre and the Fox Village Theater in Westwood, CA, as reported by the 9 Aug 1967 Var and 23 Oct 1967 LAT. The East Coast premiere benefitted the Actors Studio in Manhattan, and the 2 Nov 1967 NYT review stated that the New York City engagement would continue at the City Cinema I.
       Critical reception was positive, with consistent praise given to Newman and co-star George Kennedy, as well as the technical elements, which NYT critic Bosley Crowther asserted elevated Cool Hand Luke above other contemporary “prison films.” Several sources declared the picture’s themes and technical achievements signaled a departure from what the 8 Nov 1966 LAT called the “traditional Hollywood formulations” of studio pictures.
       George Kennedy received an Academy Award for Actor in a Supporting Role. Paul Newman’s performance earned him a nomination for Best Actor, and the film was also nominated for Music (Original Music Score) and Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium). AFI ranked Cool Hand Luke #71 on its list of 100 Years…100 Cheers, while the line, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” placed #11 on the list of the greatest movie quotes of all time. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
12 May 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1966
p. 8.
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
31 May 1967
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
25 Aug 1965
Section D, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
14 May 1966
p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
8 Nov 1966
Section C, p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
23 Oct 1967
Section C, p. 31.
Los Angeles Times
30 Oct 1967
Section C, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
26 Nov 1967
Section D, p. 1, 11.
New York Times
20 Dec 1965
p. 48.
New York Times
2 Nov 1967
p. 58.
New York Times
7 Jan 1968
Section D, pp. 8-9.
Variety
18 May 1966
p. 24.
Variety
9 Nov 1966
p. 24.
Variety
17 May 1967
p. 24.
Variety
9 Aug 1967
p. 16.
Variety
6 Sep 1967
p. 7.
Variety
28 Feb 1968
p. 7.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Supv hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Cool Hand Luke by Donald Pearce (New York, 1965).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 November 1967
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 1 November 1967
Production Date:
3 October--14 December 1966
Copyright Claimant:
Jalem Productions
Copyright Date:
27 July 1967
Copyright Number:
LP35742
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
126
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Luke Jackson is arrested for unscrewing the tops from a row of parking meters while on a drunken spree in a small Southern town. After the trial, he is sentenced to 2 years of labor on a chain gang. A loner who maintains his aloofness even while working in the blazing sun, Luke soon antagonizes another prisoner, Dragline, the acknowledged leader of the chain gang. The tension between the two men mounts until they finally have a fight in which Dragline beats Luke but is unable to make him give up. Luke's skill at poker, plus his refusal to break under pressure from the sadistic guards, win him the respect of Dragline and the admiration of the other inmates. A short time after Luke receives a farewell visit from his dying mother, a telegram arrives informing him that she is dead. Unable to bear his confinement, Luke saws a hole in the floor under his bunk and escapes; but he is captured, brutally beaten, and put in ankle chains. Undaunted, he breaks out again but is recaptured. Every effort is made to break his will, and he is bludgeoned and overworked until he begs the guards for mercy. Upon seeing Luke betray the myth of the indomitable hero, the other men treat him with contempt. Then, without warning, he escapes in a dump truck, followed by Dragline. Taking refuge in a church, Luke sends Dragline away and attempts to settle his score with God. Partly out of love for Luke, partly out of fear for his own safety, Dragline returns with the guards. Rather than surrender, Luke stands before a window and shouts his defiance until he is silenced ... +


Luke Jackson is arrested for unscrewing the tops from a row of parking meters while on a drunken spree in a small Southern town. After the trial, he is sentenced to 2 years of labor on a chain gang. A loner who maintains his aloofness even while working in the blazing sun, Luke soon antagonizes another prisoner, Dragline, the acknowledged leader of the chain gang. The tension between the two men mounts until they finally have a fight in which Dragline beats Luke but is unable to make him give up. Luke's skill at poker, plus his refusal to break under pressure from the sadistic guards, win him the respect of Dragline and the admiration of the other inmates. A short time after Luke receives a farewell visit from his dying mother, a telegram arrives informing him that she is dead. Unable to bear his confinement, Luke saws a hole in the floor under his bunk and escapes; but he is captured, brutally beaten, and put in ankle chains. Undaunted, he breaks out again but is recaptured. Every effort is made to break his will, and he is bludgeoned and overworked until he begs the guards for mercy. Upon seeing Luke betray the myth of the indomitable hero, the other men treat him with contempt. Then, without warning, he escapes in a dump truck, followed by Dragline. Taking refuge in a church, Luke sends Dragline away and attempts to settle his score with God. Partly out of love for Luke, partly out of fear for his own safety, Dragline returns with the guards. Rather than surrender, Luke stands before a window and shouts his defiance until he is silenced by a bullet. The hysterical Dragline is beaten into submission and then returns to the chain gang where he perpetuates the legend of Cool Hand Luke. +

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

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