Cool Hand Luke starring Paul Newman is a classic film, and without a doubt one of my favorites. It’s Newman’s greatest performance, in a film loaded with powerhouse acting. You’ve got George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton, Jo Van Fleet, Strother Martin (What we’ve got here is “failure to communicate”) and Dick Davalos, to name a few. Don’t know who Dick Davalos is? He played Blind Dick, and is best remembered as Aaron Trask, opposite James Dean’s Cal Trask in East of Eden.
Speaking of James Dean– the role of Lucas Jackson would more than likely been his– not Newman’s, had he not been killed in a fatal car crash. Dean would have starred in The Left Handed Gun, Somebody Up There Likes Me and probably Hud as well. Not to take anything away from Paul Newman, but Dean was definitely the bigger star back then, and his passing gave Newman a clear path to instant stardom.
Cool Hand Luke is visually rich with incredibly authentic sets, cultural cues, wardrobe and styling. I wanted to live in that prison bunkhouse. What was so bad? They got to hang-out, enjoy cold drinks, eat eggs and such.
I became obsessed with the old chain-gang garb, and own several beat-up, RRL denim chore coats because of it. Chore coats are an iconically American piece– worn by laborers, convicts, artists and plain everyday folk. And another American icon– the classic chambray workshirt is in there too.
There was nothing not to like in this film– even the hair. Carr the floor walker, and Blind Dick had very cool D.A.’s. And what about the incredible score, Harry Dean Stanton’s crooning, and Paul Newman singing and playing banjo on Plastic Jesus? The film is pregnant with comparisons of Luke to Jesus. Luke is their leader– his crucifixion pose after eating the eggs– “stop feeding off of me!” alluding to communion– Dragline as ‘Judas’ bringing the cops to Luke in the final scene– on and on. There are some many famous lines in Cool Hand Luke that I could be here all day– “shaking it up here boss!”
Homage to the vintage Chore Coat.
Middle picture– The Warehouse, Japan.
Bottom picture– Lee, Evisu, Sugar Cane, Duck Digger, Buzz Rickson’s and others.
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