Cool Hand Luke Explained In a Nutshell
Luke Jackson is a cool, gutsy prisoner in a Southern chain gang, who, while refusing to buckle under to authority, keeps escaping and being recaptured. The prisoners admire Luke because, as Dragline explains it, “You’re an original, that’s what you are!” Nevertheless, the camp staff actively works to crush Luke until he finally breaks.
The Cool Hand Luke Movie Trailer
The Cool Hand Luke Movie Breakdown
Who is in it? Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper
Genre: Crime – Drama
Was it dramatic? Sure.
Would this movie be for every drama fan? Yes.
Should you see it? Yes.
Run Time: 126 minutes
Rating: NR – as far as I can tell.
Cool Hand Luke, What a movie! This movie may have came out in 1967, but it stands the test of time very well. Outwardly, this movie looks like a man that can’t conform and dies because of it. If this film only had this to offer, it wouldn’t really be much of a movie. Luke is a man from a broken home. He’s bored, he’s a natural leader, and he keeps finding himself in trouble because he doesn’t follow the rules. Although he is a bit of a hell raiser, his good nature really makes you fall in love with the character. Lets go through Cool Hand Luke.
Sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand
We start out with a drunk Luke cutting the heads off of parking meters at night. He gets caught and is sent to prison for destroying municipal property. He is sent to work in a chain gang that basically maintains the roads. The inmate in charge is named ‘Dragline’ and he doesn’t think much of Luke when they meet. While working on a road a foxy blonde wearing a skimpy dress comes out to wash her car. The blonde gets her dress wet and soapy and pressing her breasts up against the glass simply to tease the inmates. Later that night, Dragline is droning on and on about the girl and Luke tells him to stop beating it in the ground, which starts a fight. When inmates have a problem with each other they get to box in the yard on Saturday and they do. Dragline beats and beats on Luke and although he is tougher than him, Luke won’t stay down. Luke shows heart, and that he isn’t afraid of him and really gains the men’s respect.
Any man loses his spoon gets a night in the box
Later that night, the men are playing poker and Luke bluffs his way into winning a very large pot with a totally useless hand. Luke’s attitude wins the hearts of the men, and Dragline befriends him and Luke earns the name Cool Hand Luke. One day his brother and nephew brings his dying mother Arletta, in the back of a pickup truck to see Luke. Arletta confesses that he was her favorite child and that he reminded her of his father that left. She tells him that she is going to die soon and she is leaving the property to his brother because she never really gave him the love she should have. The prison guards tell Luke to go back inside, and he says goodbye to his mom. The next day the inmates get a new job, to shovel some sand or something over fresh tar on a long road. The job would typically take all day, but Luke’s hustle motivates the men to work at a jack rabbit’s pace and they finish the job with 2 hours left to just enjoy the day which really raises the men’s moral. Luke rally’s the men together by betting them that he can eat 50 eggs. Although there is a lot of betting on both sides, Luke comes through in fine fashion eating 50 hard boiled eggs in an hour.
What we have here is failure to communicate
Next Luke gets the news that his mother died. The prison guards throw him into solitary confinement simply because his mom died and men have a tendency to want to escape during that time in their life. They throw Luke in ‘The Box’ until his mother is buried and release him. Up to this point in the film, Luke has really done nothing wrong while in prison and has followed the rules. Luke takes the prison guard’s actions personally and when let out he escapes out of spite. He is later caught and has to wear leg chains. After returning to work, he escapes again and gets another pair, and is forced to dig ditches until he breaks, which he eventually does. The prison guards make him their bitch basically by making him serve the others water and fetch things when they whistle to make an example of him. One day, the guard makes him fetch a rifle and Luke takes off in their truck. While escaping, Dragline gets in the truck with him and after they get away they hide the truck and go separate ways. Luke wanders to a church where he confronts god, and comes to the conclusion that he is alone in the world because he is a hard case. Dragline shows up at the church after the place is surrounded by police and the prison guards and they want to kill him. Luke comes to the window and in a matter of speaking, mocks the warden and gets shot with a fatal shot in the neck. As Dragline carries him outside, the warden puts him in the back of the car and Luke turns his head to Dragline and smirks a bit showing that Luke went out the way he wanted to. The movie ends with Dragline telling his story to the men as they work the line. The End.
Official Nutshell-Movies Explanation
Cool Hand Luke (1967): Man gets arrested, makes friends, eats some eggs, escapes jail, then gets shot. Should’ve been a night in the box.
- Luke’s prison number (37) is a reference to the Bible – Luke 1:37. (“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”)
- The music cue where Luke gets the men to work faster on the road was used later for many years by many ABC television stations as their “Eyewitness News” theme.
- The movie’s line “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” was voted as the #11 movie quote by the American Film Institute.
- Truckloads of Spanish moss were shipped from Louisiana to the set in California to hang in the trees around the prison.
- A Southern prison camp was built for this movie just north of Stockton, California. A dozen buildings were constructed, including a barracks, mess hall, warden’s quarters, guard shack, and dog kennels.
- While passing by the prison camp set, a San Joaquin County building inspector thought it was a recently constructed migrant worker’s complex, and posted “condemned” notices on the buildings for not being up to code.
- In the “road-tarring” sequence, the actors actually blacktopped a mile-long stretch of highway for the county.
- The opening scene, where Luke is cutting off the heads of parking meters, was filmed in Lodi, California. After the filming, the city did not replace the meters, and for many years afterward, you could go there and see a block long row of metal posts, sans meters.
- Donn Pearce who wrote the novel on which the movie is based, spent 2 years on a chain gang for safe-breaking. Pearce makes a cameo appearance in the movie as a convict named Sailor.
- Although she played his mother in the film, Jo Van Fleet was only 11 years older thanPaul Newman.
- Actor Morgan Woodward, who played Boss Godfrey, a.k.a. “The Man With No Eyes,” remained in character during breaks between scenes. He would sit in his chair, still wearing his mirrored sunglasses, and not speak to anyone.
If you like prison movies or jail break movies then Cool Hand Luke is for you.