Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Harper (1966)

Time for some 60's murder mystery, I guess. Paul Newman, ever the stud, stars as the eponymous Harper, a cool private detective in the middle of a divorce from his wife Susan (Janet Leigh), who can't stand his commitment to his time-consuming and undignified job. When aging beauty queen Mrs Sampson (Lauren Bacall) calls upon him to find her missing millionaire/drunkard husband, Harper finds himself mired in an unexpectedly complex case involving drugs, murder, illegal aliens, and a tragic romance. He enlists the aid of Mr Sampson's pilot, Allan (Robert Wagner), and free-spirited daughter Miranda (Pamela Tiffin), and lawyer Albert (Arthur Hill), but realizes quickly that no one he meets on the trail to the truth can be trusted (hey, nice alliteration, me). Mr Sampson is involved with a number of seedy characters, a number of whom might want him dead, or just want his money. In the middle of the case, Harper also tries to woo back his soon-to-be-ex-wife.

God, Paul Newman's charisma could have taken him right to the presidency if he wanted, it is ridiculous. Basically he makes this movie, infusing Harper with obvious cool and irreverence, a man who might not always have a plan but will always find a way out. He pulls off some hilarious accents, and he's lookin' good in a suit the whole time. There's a great supporting cast and a host of interesting characters. Unfortunately I kept getting some of the men confused, since some people who were given very little initial screen time would prove important later and I'd be like "Wait, who? Is that that brunette white guy or that other brunette white guy?" So I would advise you to pay better attention to everyone, I guess.

I like how the story starts off simple (millionaire is missing, let's find him) and becomes gradually more and more intricate as the relationships and motivations of the web of people surrounding Sampson develop. I haven't read the book by Ross Macdonald, so I can't say how close it is to the source material, but that's ok. Harper isn't as enthralling as, say, Laura or The Maltese Falcon, but it makes up for it with hip 60's fashion, music, and slang, aiding Newman's already considerably cool persona and swingin' co-stars. Also, its poster is awesome and kind of hilarious.


PS For any Harvey Danger fans, Sean Nelson references this movie a couple of times in this lyrics, which I had never picked up before seeing it! What a cool guy!


  1. oh man i've been really wanting to see this!

  2. you're welcome for telling you about this good movie. Also come on Nicole, try to watch stuff once in awhile.

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