Frank Capua is a rising star on the race circuit who dreams of winning the big one--the Indianapolis 500. But to get there he runs the risk of losing his wife Elora to his rival, Luther ... See full summary »
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
After Harper (played by a stuntman) dives through the shed window he runs between some dilapidated ship vent stacks. As the stuntman moves behind the stack, you can see Harper's (Newman) head sticking out on the other side and the stuntman's hind side out the other. The size of the combined Harper at that point is probably 10+ feet tall. See more »
[about Fay Estabrook]
Why are you interested in an old bag of worms like her?
She's not an old bag of worms. She's the sexiest thing I ever seen.
Well I disagree, but then, you see, I am married to Miss Estabrook and I know whereof I speak. Hey, don't get me wrong, sport, I am not the jealous type. You want her, you can have her!
See more »
Paul Newman's first foray into detective playing came after Frank Sinatra had turned the role down. Quite what the other "blue eyes" would have done with the material is anyones guess, but it's hard to think he could have been as effortlessly cool and have the comic nous that Newman puts into Lew Harper. Whilst I wouldn't go so far as saying that Harper revitalised a faltering "detective" genre, I do however think it's fair to say that it stands as one of the genres most important post 50s entries. Harper has a bit of everything, a dynamite leading performance, a tricksy plot full of suspicious and near bonkers characters, cool locations, dames of all shapes, ages and sizes, and more tellingly, a cracking screenplay that's inventive in structure and sizzles with humour. Hell, even the end has a nice touch, a conversation piece indeed.
With its shades of The Big Sleep and its obvious Raymond Chandler conventions, Harper for sure is hardly original. But it's so colourful, in more ways than one, it is able to hold its head up high and stand on its own two feet as a slickly constructed detective piece for the modern age. That it doffs its cap to those wonderful 40s & 50s movies should be applauded, not used as a stick to beat it with. From the off we know that Lew Harper may well be a cool dude that looks pretty, but he's also the sort of PI that is fallible and is prepared to go low to get his leads. As he fishes out dirty coffee filters from his garbage can to take his morning hit, we know we are in the presence of no ordinary detective. Where ever Harper goes he meets "interesting" characters, if they are not sticking a gun or a fist in his face, then they want something from him or intend to hinder his progress. The roll call consists of a gun-toting attorney (Arthur Hill), a poolside gigolo (Robert Wagner), an alcoholic ex-starlet who has let herself go (Shelley Winters), the missing man's horny daughter (Pamela Tiffin), a jazz loving junkie (Julie Harris), Harper's estranged wife (Janet Leigh) and the leader of nutty religious order "Temple Of The Clouds" (Strother Martin). Then there's the secondary characters that file in and out as Harper chases clues, hit men, bag-men, fresh faced cops and mysterious servants. All serving a purpose and giving the excellent Newman scope to act off.
Tho Conrad Hall's cinematography is on the money, Harper isn't stylish in the film noir tradition in that respect. There's no visual tricks, and in truth this is not a film for the action junkie. What it is is damn fine story telling that is acted accordingly, and yes it is very noirish in plotting. There's never a dull moment and all scenes are relevant. It's also very funny. Witness Harper's "date" with Fay Estabrook, Newman & Winters are comedy gold. And Harper's phone calls to his estranged wife, or simply lap up Martin's hilarious religious berserker turn. But ultimately you want, and need, a bit of hardness in a plot such as this, and we get it as the last third of the film arrives in a ball of gun play and torture. It's a smashing film for those after a slick detective piece driven by a charismatic leading man. 8/10
8 of 10 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this