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Academy Award winner Paul Newman stars with Hollywood legends LaurenBacall, Janet Leigh and Julie Harris as the tough guy Los Angelesprivate detective Lew Harper.Down on his luck and almost broke, Harper(Newman--Road to Perdition) takes a job finding the missing husband ofElaine Sampson (Bacall--Birth). But what should be a simple case takesHarper on a downward spiral through the dark side of the entertainmentcapital.The screenplay by Academy Award winner William Goldman (ButchCassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men) was based on RossMacDonald's novel The Moving Target.]]>
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
- Commentary by screenwriter William Goldman
- Introduction by TCM host Robert Osborne
- Theatrical Trailer
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just today, I took the opportunity and said: "You're right, I am jealous, he died saying your name." Made me
This is one of my favorite films. Read more
(4.75 stars) 1966 was a great year. I was born and this movie was made. Gotta love it.Published 4 months ago by book lover
The acting was better than the script, which meant the movie was not involving.Published 4 months ago by JOEL A. ROBINSON
This movie is Paul Newman at his cynical best in this character role. It's a great movie based on a Ross McDonald novel. Read morePublished 5 months ago by K. MacKenzie
Classic. Enough plot twists to keep you guessing until the end.Published 5 months ago by jeffrey scovell
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