Cool Hand Luke

Frank Pierson in Person

The chain gang in this bristling prison yarn is a band of broken men, that is until “cool hand” Luke shows up. Played with stylish disaffection by Paul Newman, Luke finds himself in a brutal work camp for the petty crime of vandalism. But even under the suffocating rule of the guards, he has a strangely unbreakable spirit. Luke's fellow inmates are drawn to his defiance, especially Dragline, the top con, executed by George Kennedy with a quirky bravura that won him an Oscar. Luke, an obstinate escapee to the end, is caught between the admiration of the inmates and the disdain of the screws, both of which wear on him. Pierson's pointed script never errs in its portrayal of a disenchanted man who has become, as Bosley Crowther noted, “a fugitive not only from a chain gang, but also from society, and, indeed, from life.” And life, for Luke, is a glorious bluff where “sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.”

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