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Lew Harper is a Los Angeles based private investigator whose marriage to Susan Harper, who he still loves, is ending in imminent divorce since she can't stand being second fiddle to his work, which is always taking him away at the most inopportune of times. His latest client is tough talking and physically disabled Elaine Sampson, who wants him to find her wealthy husband, Ralph Sampson, missing now for twenty-four hours, ever since he disappeared at Van Nuys Airport after having just arrived from Vegas. No one seems to like Ralph, Elaine included. She believes he is cavorting with some woman, which to her would be more a fact than a problem. Harper got the case on the recommendation of the Sampsons' lawyer and Harper's personal friend, milquetoast Albert Graves, who is unrequitedly in love with Sampson's seductive daughter, Miranda Sampson. Miranda, who Harper later states throws herself at anything "pretty in pants", also has a decidedly cold relationship with her stepmother, Elaine... Written by
I just read "The Moving Target" by Ross Macdonald, the book upon which "Harper" is based. Given that the book was written in 1949 and "Harper" was contemporary (1966) when made, the movie follows the novel pretty darn close. Many of the scenes are done almost verbatim from the book. Harper is more acerbic than Macdonald's Lew Archer, and the novel, of course, fleshes out the characters and their motives a little better. But I think the movie stands up pretty well by itself. It has an outstanding supporting cast and, except for Pamela Tiffin, the acting is good, with high marks especially for Paul Newman and, in my opinion, Arthur Hill. The photography is gorgeous, and I can listen all night to any music by Johnny Mandel. All that and those great one-liners by Newman! I'd give it a 7 or 8 out of ten.
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