Some movies are so iconic that you have to think twice to remember you never saw them, at least all the way through. For me, Cool Hand Luke is one of these. Sure, I knew the failure to communicate line. I could probably have told you it was Strother Martin that said it. And the egg-eating scene, and the Christ allusions. But no I never actually saw it.
So when I visit my local library, which has an exemplary video collection, I often have to stop while I am grazing and think about whether I actually saw this or that film, or whether I am just overly familiar with its trappings. I am catching up with a lot of good movies this way.
On my last trip to the library, then, I picked up Cool Hand Luke, which happened to be showcased in a display of 60’s films. Over in new movies was a copy of The Paperboy, so I picked that up, too.
I made a double feature of it. No design to that–just happenstance. It happens that there were a few things they had in common, having to do with how the male and female bodies are displayed.
If you’ve seen Cool Hand Luke (and of course you have since who hasn’t seen Cool Hand Luke?) you’ll recall a scene in which the chain-ganged prisoners are made wild by the sight of a buxom lass (Joy Harmon) who has decided to wash her car with a certain abandon right in front of the poor guys’ chained-up, pent-up libidos. Harmon’s ample body provides a nice contrast with the summer dress she is barely squoze into. It is a short and willowy blue floral print number, which highlights the curves that almost don’t fit.
Then I watched The Paperboy, another film with more than a hint of Southern Gothic in it. And it has a buxom Daisy Mae as well, in this case played by Nicole Kidman.
Here is Nicole squished into her. . . short and willowy blue floral print number.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know that in this scene she also, ahem, excites a prisoner, along with the other guys in the prison visiting room.
OK, that’s the distaff side. What about the guys?
Well, there it’s the triumph of the classic white underwear briefs. The prisoners in Luke fairly parade around in them when not out on the chain gang. . . .
…as does Zac Efron in The Paperboy.
You can’t keep a good old, shaggy Southern tale down. It will rise again.
Er, I haven’t seen “Cool Hand Luke”…
Guess I know what I’m doing this weekend.
Interested in your reaction. It was entertaining enough for me but way dated.
I think with certain cultural products of a certain moment ya hadda be there, and it just doesn’t do to be first exposed much later. “What we have here is a failure to communicate” is one of those signature 60s moments about rebellion and authority. It surely gave a rush to viewers in 1967, and then forever after left a gauzy residue on the movie, such that decades later people would warm to it in the afterglow. But what happens when the first time you hear the signature line it is 2013? To me, it didn’t impress all that much–“is that what all the fuss was about?”
We are also so into shocking violence and truly badass characters that the nice middle class white folks in the Southern chain gang just didn’t compute. George Kennedy as the alpha male on a chain gang? He won an Oscar for it but all I could see was Ed Hocken from The Naked Gun movies.
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