Honest and hard-working Texas rancher Homer Bannon has a conflict with his unscrupulous, selfish, arrogant and egotistical son Hud, who sank into alcoholism after accidentally killing his brother in a car crash.
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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
According to the TCMDb, this film was "one of Newman's biggest hits of the '60s and a film that helped establish his reputation as one of the screen's coolest stars". See more »
When Harper (played by stuntman) dives through the shed window he has his hands tied together in the front of him. However, when he is getting up from the ground, his hands part and his left hand can be seen pushing himself up before his right hand moves back to be next to his left. See more »
[Having made Fay think he's jealous, he starts pumping the visibly drunk woman for information]
This Ralph, he here now?
Oh, no. Ralph's my oldest friend, but now I only do his astrological charts and a little interior decorating. I did his room here in the hotel, I wish I could show it to you. I have this fabulous taste!
[Looking his plump companion up and down]
Babe, you got everything!
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This is very much like a late 1940s film noir, except it's filmed in the mid 1960s. It has that same edgy dialog and feel to it as private eye "Lew Harper" goes looking for a missing man. His character is based on Ross McDonald's best-selling P.I. "Lew Archer."
In "Harper," all the characters are suspicious and they vary from suave "Allan Taggart" (Robert Wagner) to the coquettish late teen "Miranda Sampson" (Pamela Tiffin) to a lawyer "Albert Graves" (Arthur Hill) who's infatuated with the hot teen and also carries a gun. Then there's the overweight has-been entertainer "Fay Esterbrook" (Shelly Winters), the druggie jazz singer "Betty Fraley" (Julie Harris), the New Age scam artist "Claude" (Strother Martin) and a bunch of gangsters and thugs who are the obvious targets. Of them all, I though Winters was the biggest hoot.
Along the way, Newman wins all the verbal bouts but loses the physical contests. He zings everyone with some great put-downs, but takes a physical beating a few times, too. He sports a nice shiner in the last half of the film.
This film will put you smack into the time period, when people danced "The Frug" and referred to cops as "the fuzz." People were starting to wear Beatle-type haircuts, although you'd never find Newman giving in to that counterculture fad. In here, at least, he's old school, tough, relentless and suspicious of everyone......which, at it turns out, is as it should be.
The DVD is now part of the Paul Newman Collection and it's shown with a very sharp 2.35:1 ratio transfer, very much showing off Conrad Hall's cinematography. Johnny Mandel's music score adds to the "coolness" of this film, too.
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