Cool Hand Luke (1967) Poster


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In the "road-tarring" sequence, the actors actually blacktopped a mile-long stretch of highway for the county.
200 hard boiled eggs were provided for the one of the film's most famous sequences. Due to clever editing, Paul Newman only ate about 8 in total. The rest of the eggs were all consumed by the rest of the cast and crew which led to extreme cases of flatulence the next day.
The opening scene, where Luke is cutting off the heads of parking meters, was filmed in Lodi, California. After the filming, the city did not replace the meters, and for many years afterward, you could go there and see a block long row of metal posts, sans meters.
According to Jack Lemmon's son Chris Lemmon in an Icons Radio Interview, Jack Lemmon was originally selected to play the part of Luke, but Lemmon, reading the script, saw that Paul Newman would be better. So Lemmon decided to produce it.
While passing by the prison camp set, a San Joaquin County building inspector thought it was a recently constructed migrant worker's complex, and posted "condemned" notices on the buildings for not being up to code.
The music cue where Luke gets the men to work faster on the road was used later for many years by many ABC television stations as their "Eyewitness News" theme.
Morgan Woodward, who played Boss Godfrey, a.k.a. "The Man With No Eyes," remained in character during breaks between scenes. He would sit in his chair, still wearing his mirrored sunglasses, and not speak to anyone.
Luke's prison number (37) is a reference to the Bible - Luke 1:37. ("For with God nothing shall be impossible.")
The movie's line "What we've got here is failure to communicate." was voted as the #11 movie quote by the American Film Institute. When Frank Pierson wrote that dialog to be delivered by a an uneducated, redneck prison guard, he worried that people wouldn't find it authentic. So he wrote a biography of the guard, explaining that in order to advance to a higher grade in the system, he had been required to take criminology courses, thus exposing him to the kind of academic vocabulary that would justify him using the 'communicate' phrase. But as it turned out, no one questioned the line or needed to read the fictional account.
Joy Harmon has said that she almost turned down her now much-celebrated role in the car wash scene, not because of any discomfort over the sexual nature of the scene but because the filmmakers wanted her to smoke marijuana before the shoot began, apparently thinking it would put her in the proper mindset; when she voiced her objections they dropped the request and she did the scene in an "un-stoned" state of mind.
One of Paul Newman's instructions to the writers Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson was that they did not write the piece for him. He wanted a part that would really stretch him and not just play to his strengths.
Luke is seen as sort of a Savior by the other convicts, as he gives them hope. After the egg-eating contest, he is laid out on the table in a posture resembling the Crucifixion.
Paul Newman learned to play the banjo specifically for the film.
Truckloads of Spanish moss were shipped from Louisiana to the set in California to hang in the trees around the prison.
Although he loved the look of Morgan Woodward as the intimidating Boss Godfrey, director Stuart Rosenberg felt that his voice didn't match up with his appearance. So Woodward had all his dialogue stripped out, helping to establish his character as one of the more memorable ones to appear in the film.
A Southern prison camp was built for this movie just north of Stockton, California. A dozen buildings were constructed, including a barracks, mess hall, warden's quarters, guard shack, and dog kennels.
The first of 4 collaborations between director Stuart Rosenberg and Paul Newman.
In later years, composer Lalo Schifrin would often be asked why he used the theme for Eyewitness News (1968) in the film. Schifrin would then rather bemusedly explain that he composed the music for the film and Eyewitness News (1968) adopted it.
Although she played his mother in the film, Jo Van Fleet was only 11 years older than Paul Newman.
The scene where Luke is visited by his mother had to be filmed in one day. For a scene that involves 8 pages of dialogue, that was quite a tall order but because the actors involved - Paul Newman and Jo Van Fleet - were so talented and professional, this was easily accomplished.
Jack Lemmon was the owner of Jalem Productions, which co-produced many of his films as well as Cool Hand Luke (1967).
Bette Davis was first offered the role of Luke's mother, but refused the bit part.
A version of the song Plastic Jesus sung by Luke after learning that his mother died, was used by radio personality Don Imus as the theme song to his Dr. Billy Soul Harkus character while broadcasting from New York City in the 1970s.
The lines "What we've got here is... failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it... well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men." can be heard in the intro of the song "Civil War" by Guns N' Roses. They would use audio of the first line again during the song "Madagascar" on the 2008 album "Chinese Democracy."
Luke's legendary consumption of 50 eggs was repeated in a _Jackass_ episode in 2001.
Stuart Rosenberg viewed the character of Luke as an avatar for Jesus Christ. The film is packed full of Christian imagery as a consequence.
Reportedly Telly Savalas was originally considered for the role of Dragline.
The film marks the movie debuts of actors Anthony Zerbe, Ralph Waite and James Gammon.
Originally set to be filmed in Florida, at the last minute Warner Brothers vetoed that decision over budgetary issues and insisted that the film be made in California.
Stuart Rosenberg was able to set up the film with the assistance of Felicia Farr and her husband, Jack Lemmon. Lemmon had a deal with Columbia and was anxious to produce a film that he did not star in.
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George Kennedy and Richard Davalos died only nine days apart: Kennedy on February 28, 2016 and Davalos on March 8, 2016.
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Aldo Ray auditioned for the role of Dragline that ultimately went to George Kennedy.
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No less than three cast members would later appear in James Bond films: Joe Don Baker (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Living Daylights), Anthony Zerbe (Licence to Kill), and Clifton James (Live and Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun).
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Guns N' Roses sampled the famous "What we have here is failure to communicate" speech for their song "Civil War" on their 1991 "Use Your Illusion II" album.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Donn Pearce: as a convict named Sailor. Pearce wrote the novel on which the movie is based, after spending 2 years on a chain gang for safe-breaking.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Just before Luke is brought back from one of his escape attempts, Dragline lets one of the inmates (Koko) look at the picture of Luke that he hides in the magazine. As Koko opens the magazine, clearly visible on the opposite page is an article titled "The Illusion That Kills" with an image of a hunter firing a rifle, which is pointed directly at Luke's chest. This is obviously a reference to "The Man With No Eyes".
When the famous line "What we've got here is a failure to communicate" is originally spoken by the Captain (Strother Martin) he omits the "a"; but when Luke (Paul Newman) repeats the line at the end while in the church, he says "a failure to communicate." Thus, the line can be quoted correctly both with and without the "a".
Columbia passed on making the film, having just lost a lot of money on a prison picture called King Rat (1965) that no one went to see. They were also not keen on the fact that the lead character dies at the end.

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