Harper

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The Plot

  • A true  forgotten gem and a classic gumshoe flick that in the backdrop of 1960s Los Angeles that includes kidnapping, double crossing, bizarre cults and at it’s heart, love and lust.
  • A charming actor that exemplified suave on screen, Paul Newman starred in a 1966 mystery film Harper, based Ross McDonald’s novel The Moving Target.
  • Newman plays the role of private investigator Lew Harper who is hired by a woman named Elaine Sampson (played by the great Lauren Bacall) to locate her husband Ralph Sampson after he suddenly disappeared while flying back to LA from Las Vegas.
  • The on-screen dynamics between of former femme fetale Lauren Bacall and Newman is special, for it sets the pace for the rest of the film. Take a look

  • The case was brought to him district attorney and personal friend Albert Graves (Arthur Hill) who also informs Harper of Ralph’s egocentric personality and unfaithful acts he’s committed against his wife.
  • On this journey of collusion and treason, Harper soon discovers that those close to the situation cannot be trusted either. Everyone becomes a suspect and Harper could find himself in deep waters if he doesn’t keep his cool and play his cards right.

What I Liked

  • What makes Harper great was the nostalgic elements Harper incorporated into its theme.
  • This film was one of the first homages to the “Film Noirs” of the early 40s that captured the cynical nature of people and was one of the first private investigation films that gave us a close look into deceptive glamour of Los Angeles.
  • Newman showed the same commanding control that Bogart portrayed in The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep but with his own boyish affability. He was always in control without having to flex his muscle or show too rugged emotion.
  • The dialogue as well was witty and engaging, especially between Newman and his co-star Pamela Tiffin.

What I Disliked

  • I feel Harper could have been portrayed more as an antihero, or essentially a protagonist that has character attributes that give us reason to question why we are rooting for them. Paul Newman gave a fine performance adding in his casual and flirtatious style, but I would have liked to see him get dirtier in the trenches.

Should You See It?

  • I would recommend seeing this picture. It’s reminiscent of the classic that you forget your watching a classic. If you’re a mystery fan or better yet a Paul Newman fan, then this movie is for you .

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