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Harper


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Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh
  • Directors: Jack Smight
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: November 14, 2006
  • Run Time: 121 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000HWZ4D4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,943 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Harper" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Commentary by screenwriter William Goldman
  • Introduction by TCM host Robert Osborne
  • Theatrical Trailer

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Harper (DVD)

Amazon.com

The reason to see Harper is the kooky mid-Sixties design, the peculiar over-the-hill-gang supporting cast, and the crazy Rat Pack lingo written by famed screenwriter William Goldman. And, of course, Paul Newman fans will want to see their guy in the full flower of his anti-hero hero phase. Anyone seeking a decent adaptation of Ross Macdonald's great series of detective novels will, however, be sorely disappointed. Macdonald's Lew Archer is a melancholy knight who operates in an increasingly somber tangle of family crimes; the movie's Lew Harper is a wisecracking hepcat who mugs his way through an indifferent missing-persons investigation. (Frank Sinatra, who was offered the role, would have been a better fit than Newman.) The cast includes Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, Julie Harris, and Shelley Winters as various femmes, none of them especially fatale, and Robert Wagner has one of his better roles as a kind of cabana boy to the rich. Strother Martin pops up as a bearded guru with a love temple on top of a Southern California mountain. The director is Jack Smight, whose career was largely made up of TV work. This was the first Goldman script to be made into a film, based on Macdonald's novel The Moving Target; as Goldman states in an enjoyable DVD commentary track, the name Lew Archer was switched to Harper because of Macdonald's reluctance to sign away franchise rights to his private eye's name, not because Newman wanted to have another movie with an "H" title (after The Hustler and Hud). That clears up a long-running urban legend. Newman did make another Macdonald adaptation, The Drowning Pool, in 1975 again using the Harper name. For a much better mid-sixties cool private-eye picture, see Blake Edwards' Gunn. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

Casting was very good.
Mamafish
All the middle aged women are great, really great: Julie Harris, Shelley Winters, Janet Leigh, and the great Lauren Bacall.
LGwriter
In the end, Harper knows a little more about who he really is.
Van Hamlin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Cowboy Buddha on May 29, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
The music, the cars, and the size of Pamela Tiffin's bikini (not to mention her hair) are the big giveaways that this is a Sixties Flick - but one without the usual camera trickery so fashionable in those days. Instead, director Jack Smight goes for a straightforward private eye approach, although the colour and California sunshine rule out any chance of Harper becoming a latter day film noir.
Paul Newman is the title character, a seedy and cynical private eye investigating the disappearance of a singularly unloved millionaire. That Harper is seedy is amply illustrated under the opening credits. His cynicism is repeatedly demonstrated in William Goldman's terse and cutting dialogue, which Newman clearly enjoys delivering.
The plot frequently takes a back seat to the parade of offbeat characters portrayed by a cast of equally offbeat co-stars. Their performances range from very good (Lauren Bacall, Arthur Hill) to barely adequate (Robert Wagner, the aforementioned Ms Tiffin) with one (Janet Leigh) seeming to have wandered in from another film altogether.
But the film belongs to Newman, clearly in his prime and in the midst of a remarkable run of films with titles beginning with "H" (Hud, Hombre, The Hustler). If some elements of the film have dated, his performance has not. A terrific film for anyone who enjoys Newman, private eyes, or just good solid movie-making.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By LGwriter on October 7, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
Based on Ross McDonald's The Moving Target--one in a long series of crime novels featuring southern California PI Lew Archer--1966's Harper is a perfect complement to Point Blank, released the next year, in which Lee Marvin is tough first, cool second. Paul Newman as Harper is cool first, tough second. Neat trick.

While this is admittedly a little dated, it does bring back the 60s and in fact does a good job of it, too--even to the point of including a hippie pseudo-guru who's a front for smuggling in Mexicans from across the border, but who's got all the trademark paraphernalia--isolated wacky domicile, pet peregrine falcon with a fancy hood over its eyes, and, you know, flowing robes. Strother Martin does this role proud. It also has a "groovy chick" played by Pamela Tiffin who is, uh, a groovy chick--great bod, sexy face, and about as shallow as a frog pond in a drought.

All the middle aged women are great, really great: Julie Harris, Shelley Winters, Janet Leigh, and the great Lauren Bacall. Each one of the ladies is perfectly cast and does a terrific job, especially Shelly Winters as a liquored up former starlet who's now washed up and who sleeps it off, a lot.

Most of the cast is just plain fun to watch and it's also fun to see Newman as Harper put on various accents and personas to weasel and wheedle and wrangle information out of various folks. Harper gets beat up, but recovers fairly quickly (hey, he's the good guy; he has to), and this is OK because it's pretty easy to tell the film itself loves film noir but is subtly funning it at the same time it honors it. Sixties southern California noir--a great mix that Ross McDonald nailed in his novels and director Jack Smight follows pretty closely in the film.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Clay Jr. on January 21, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Paul Newman plays the title role of the world-weary detective in an updated (1966) version of a 1940's detective story. This is much more, however, than Newman trying to fill in for Humphrey Bogart. The movie intrigues the viewer from the start. Harper's personal life is a shambles, and his wife wants a divorce. Harper's professional life isn't any better, and money making cases are rare. At one point early in the film, Harper explains why he keeps at it and doesn't give up. He recalls a time when there was a peak of short duration when everything went very well, and that made all the valleys suffered seem worth the struggle. Amidst all this brooding and angst, a job materializes via a lawyer friend. Harper rouses himself, finds a tie and one last clean shirt, and drives out of the city to a private estate of the very rich. And thus begins a bewildering tale of kidnapping, betrayal, murder, and complicated characters. Newman does well as the cynical private detective with a sarcastic sense of humor. The supporting cast is a gold mine of familiar faces: Lauren Bacall, Robert Wagner, Julie Harris, Arthur Hill, etc. Nobody is what they seem. Some are evil while others are merely foolish. Either way, the people he encounters do nothing to change Harper's low opinion of the tapestry of life and its various characters. This movie will please viewers who enjoy hard as nails mystery stories that stress gritty reality rather than fiery explosions, frantic car chases, and mow-'em-down with automatic weapons shootings. Paul Newman fans will be pleased by their favorite actor in one of his best roles. Multiple viewings of the movie will increase the appreciation of plot twists and evolving characters. Definitely recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Baldwin on June 2, 2008
Format: DVD
I recall seeing Harper on the big screen when it came out in '66, and have owned the VHS tape. The new DVD release is a joy: the incredibly cinematography looks gorgous, the award-winning soundtrack pops, and the commentary from William Goldman adds new insights to this unappreciated classic.

Harper is a classic, very funny, character-driven private eye yarn with a great cast set against the hopped-up world of mid 1960's LA. Sure, maybe a few things are dated but this film stands up very well after more than 40 years. The truths of Harper (people are crazier than bedbugs, they lie, surface appearances deceive, but once in awhile honor prevails) remain valid. More important, this film is "a gas" (in 60's parlance) to watch. The only thing missing from this package is a CD with Johnny Mandel's complete score (I know this is out on vinyl but haven't tracked down the CD -- yet).
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