Saturday, September 26, 2009

“Whaddya Do This Kinda Crummy Work For?”

Hard as this is to believe, it was a year ago today that actor Paul Newman died of lung cancer at age 83. I gave some thought recently to how I might celebrate his life on this occasion, and decided that nothing could be better than to showcase his acting talents.

The Rap Sheet already featured his performance in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid earlier this week. For today, I could have chosen clips of his roles in Cool Hand Luke, The Sting, Absence of Malice, The Verdict, Nobody’s Fool, Twilight, or Road to Perdition, all movies I’ve enjoyed over the years. But since this is supposed to be a crime-fiction blog, it seemed best to focus on another of my favorite Newman flicks, Harper (1966), in which he played author Ross Macdonald’s famous fictional private eye, Lew Archer (though the character’s moniker was changed for reasons that are still disputed*). I dropped a brief and sexy clip from Harper into The Rap Sheet a few months back, but here I’m going to embed that film’s delightful trailer for your enjoyment:

* In his 1999 biography of Ross Macdonald (né Kenneth Millar), Tom Nolan recalls the circumstances by which Warner Bros. went about making Harper from Macdonald’s 1949 novel, The Moving Target. It seems the studio balked at paying Millar his $50,000 asking price for the rights to adapt his story. “The studio’s solution: use the book [producer Elliott] Kastner owned but not its title, and change the detective’s name,” writes Nolan. “[Screenwriter William] Goldman was asked to rename the hero. ‘I came up with “Harper,”’ he said, ‘because it was almost the same: Lew Harper, Lew Archer.’ Thus the film became Harper. Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward, later claimed on The Tonight Show that Archer’s name was changed because Newman had had two hits (Hud, The Hustler) with H titles. Goldman’s response: ‘If you know anything about the movie business, you know it’s all bullshit.’”

READ MORE:Only Cream and Bastards Rise,” by Marty McKee
(Johnny LaRue’s Crane Shot).

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