Cool Hand Luke: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cool Hand Luke

Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Produced by Gordon Carroll
Written by Donn Pearce
Frank Pierson
Starring Paul Newman
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Conrad Hall
Editing by Sam O'Steen
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) November 1, 1967 (1967-11-01)
Running time 126 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Cool Hand Luke is a 1967 American drama film starring Paul Newman and directed by Stuart Rosenberg. The screenplay was adapted by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson from the novel by Pearce. The film features George Kennedy, Strother Martin, J.D. Cannon and Morgan Woodward.

Newman stars in the title role as Luke, a prisoner in a Florida prison camp[1] who refuses to submit to the system. His inability to conform drives the plot of the movie, in the same vein as characters such as Winston Smith from Nineteen Eighty-Four, Randle McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Number Six from the British television series The Prisoner (aired during the same year) and Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles.

In 2005, the United States Library of Congress deemed Cool Hand Luke to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.



Luke (Paul Newman) is arrested for cutting the heads off parking meters one drunken night. He is sentenced to two years in prison and sent to a Florida prison camp, run by the sadistic Captain (Strother Martin). Luke is revealed to be a decorated veteran, and is initially known to the other prisoners as "War-Hero Lucas." Luke fails to observe the established pecking order among the prisoners, and quickly runs afoul of the prisoners' de facto leader, Dragline (George Kennedy). The pair spar, with the prisoners and guards watching, and although Luke is severely outmatched by the larger Dragline, he repeatedly refuses to stay down and eventually Dragline refuses to fight further; Luke suffers a beating but wins the grudging respect of the prison population. Later, Luke wins a poker game on a bluff with a worthless hand; Luke comments that "sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand," and Dragline gives him the nickname "Cool Hand Luke."

After a visit from his mother he becomes more optimistic about his situation. Despite the brutal conditions within the camp, including hard physical labor and extended time in "the box", a harsh solitary confinement used to punish disobedient prisoners, Luke demonstrates an unquenchable spirit and the other prisoners begin to idolize him, particularly after he wins a spur-of-the moment bet that he can eat fifty hard-boiled eggs in one hour.

Luke continually circumvents the authority of the Captain and the prison-guard "bosses", and his sense of humor and independence in the face of incarceration prove contagious and inspiring to the other prisoners. This struggle for influence comes to a head when Luke leads the work crew in a seemingly-impossible effort to complete a road-paving job in a single day, in defiance of convention and expectations. Luke becomes recognized as a trouble-maker by the prison authorities.

News of his mother's death reaches Luke and the Captain locks him in the box instead of sending him to work, anticipating that Luke might attempt escape in order to attend his mother's funeral. Luke becomes depressed and determined to escape. After an initial escape attempt under the cover of a Fourth of July celebration, he is recaptured by local police and fitted with leg irons to prevent further attempts. Luke immediately makes another escape, this time visiting a nearby house where he uses an axe to remove his chain and curry powder to throw off the prison's tracking dogs. This escape is successful but short-lived. While free, Luke mails the prisoners a magazine that includes a photograph of him with two beautiful women, which is received with awe and delight, but he is soon recaptured, beaten, and returned to the prison camp. When he regains consciousness, Luke is annoyed by the prisoners' fawning and lashes out, revealing that the picture was a fake. At first the other prisoners are angry, but when, after a long stay in the box, Luke is forced to eat a giant pile of rice, the other prisoners help him finish.

Luke's escapades seal him as a legendary figure in the eyes of the prisoners, but the Captain sets out to break Luke's spirit. As punishment for his escape, he is required to dig a large hole in the prison camp yard, then fill it in and repeat the process, and is mercilessly beaten as his comrades look on with horror. Finally, an exhausted Luke collapses in his hole and begs the bosses for mercy and not to be hit again, as the other prisoners watch from the windows of the bunk house. Luke is hauled back into the bunk house, where he struggles to his bed alone. Ashamed by Luke's capitulation to the Captain, the prisoners begin to lose their idealized image of Luke. One prisoner pulls out the magazine with Luke's picture in it and tears it up.

Though seemingly broken in spirit, Luke takes one last stab at freedom when he gets the chance to steal the guards' truck. Dragline jumps in the truck with Luke and they drive off. They travel until, at night, near a church, Luke tells Dragline that they should split up. Saddened and regretful, Dragline thanks Luke as they part and Luke enters the church. Moments later, police cars arrive outside. Dragline re-enters and tells Luke that he made a deal with the bosses that they won't hurt them if they surrender peacefully. Luke, knowing better, moves to an open window and is immediately shot in the neck. A distraught Dragline hauls him outside. Luke is placed in a car with orders to take him to the prison hospital (rather than the much closer public hospital).

Later, Dragline and the other prisoners reminisce about Luke, who in death has regained all the adulation he lost among the prisoners and become a mythic hero. Dragline describes Luke's unique smile as scenes of Luke's escapades flash across the screen. The final image is the now-repaired picture of Luke and the two women, before the screen fades to black.


Cast notes:

  • Although she played Luke's mother, Jo Van Fleet was only eleven years older than Paul Newman.


The movie's anti-establishment message fit well with the mood of the 1960s.[2] It became a critical and financial success. All of the forty-three reviewers on gave the movie a positive review.[3]

Awards and honors

Cool Hand Luke won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (George Kennedy), and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Paul Newman), Best Music, Original Music Score and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

In 2003, AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains rated Luke Jackson as the number 30 greatest hero in American Cinema, and four years later, AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers: America's Most Inspiring Movies rated Cool Hand Luke number 71.

Cool Hand Luke was included in the United States National Film Registry in 2005.

Famous line

What we’ve got here is "failure to communicate". Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week. Which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. And I don't like it any more than you men.[4]

The line is frequently taken as "What we've got here is a failure to communicate." Both are correct. This line is heard twice in the film, first in its entirety, with no "a", by the Captain (Strother Martin), and later on the first line with an "a", said by Luke.

The line was a '60s subcultural reference to Lyndon B. Johnson, who is frequently quoted as originating the line, casting Johnson as a villain.

The quote was listed at number 11 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 most memorable movie lines.

The quote is also featured in the Guns N' Roses songs Civil War and Madagascar.


The original music for Cool Hand Luke was composed by Lalo Schifrin. An edited version of the musical cue from the Tar Sequence has been used for many years as the news music package on several television stations' news programs around the world, mostly those owned and operated by ABC in the United States; this cue was first used in 1968 on WABC-TV in New York for their Eyewitness News newscast and was subsequently imported to ABC's other television properties. Nine Network's Nine News & WIN Television's WIN News in Australia and NBN Television's NBN News in Northern NSW still uses an edited version of the music. Although the music originated from this film, to this day many people associate the tune with television news as opposed to the film itself. Frank Gari, who created many News Music packages recorded an arrangement of the Tar Sequence in 1983 as News Series 2000.


External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Cool Hand Luke is a 1967 film which tells the story of a prisoner in a Florida prison camp who refuses to knuckle under to the system.

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg and written by Donn Pearce, based on his novel.
The man...and the motion picture that simply do not conform. Taglines
Spoiler warning: Plot, ending, or solution details follow.



  • Oh come on. Stop beatin' it. Get out there yourself. Stop feedin' off me. Get out of here. I can't breathe. Give me some air.


  • When it comes to the law, nothin' is understood...I'm his official egg-peeler. That's the law!


  • You gonna fit in real good, of course, unless you get rabbit in your blood and you decide to take off for home. You give the bonus system time and a set of leg chains to keep you slowed down just a little bit, for your own good, you'll learn the rules. Now, it's all up to you. Now I can be a good guy, or I can be one real mean son-of-a-bitch. It's all up to you.
  • What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don't like it anymore than you men.


Dragline: He ain't in the box because of the joke played on him. He back-sassed a free man. They got their rules. We ain't got nothin' to do with that. Would probably have happened to him sooner or later anyway - a complainer like him. He gotta learn the rules the same as anybody else.
Luke: Yeah, them poor old Bosses need all the help they can get.
Dragline: You tryin' to say somethin'? You got a flappin' mouth. One of these days, I'm gonna have to flap me up some dust with it.

Dragline: [After Luke wins a poker game by bluffing] Nothin'. A handful of nothin'. You stupid mullet head. He beat you with nothin'. Just like today when he kept comin' back at me - with nothin'.
Luke: Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

Dragline: Where'd the road go?
Luke: That's it. That's the end of it.
Convict: Man, there's still daylight.
Dragline: About two hours left.
Convict: What do we do now?
Luke: Nothin'.
Dragline: Oh Luke, you wild, beautiful thing. You crazy handful of nothin'.

Luke: [Discussing God and the rain] Let him go. Bam, Bam.
Dragline: Knock it off, Luke. You can't talk about Him that way.
Luke: Are you still believin' in that big bearded Boss up there? You think he's watchin' us?
Dragline: Get in here. Ain't ya scared? Ain't ya scared of dyin'?
Luke: Dyin'? Boy, he can have this little life any time he wants to. Do ya hear that? Are ya hearin' it? Come on. You're welcome to it, ol' timer. Let me know you're up there. Come on. Love me, hate me, kill me, anything. Just let me know it.
[He looks around]
Luke: I'm just standin' in the rain talkin' to myself.

Captain: You gonna get used to wearin' them chains afer a while, Luke. Don't you never stop listenin' to them clinking. 'Cause they gonna remind you of what I been saying. For your own good.
Luke: Wish you'd stop bein' so good to me, cap'n.
Captain: [lashing out with his stick] Don't you ever talk that way to me.

Luke: Anybody here? Hey, Old Man. You home tonight? Can You spare a minute. It's about time we had a little talk. I know I'm a pretty evil fellow... killed people in the war and got drunk... and chewed up municipal property and the like. I know I got no call to ask for much... but even so, You've got to admit You ain't dealt me no cards in a long time. It's beginning to look like You got things fixed so I can't never win out. Inside, outside, all of them... rules and regulations and bosses. You made me like I am. Now just where am I supposed to fit in? Old Man, I gotta tell You. I started out pretty strong and fast. But it's beginning to get to me. When does it end? What do You got in mind for me? What do I do now? Right. All right. [Gets on knees, closes eyes and begins to pray] On my knees, asking. [pause] Yeah, that's what I thought. I guess I'm pretty tough to deal with, huh? A hard case. Yeah. I guess I gotta find my own way.
Dragline: Luke?
Luke: [Shakes head and smiles] Is that Your answer, Old Man? I guess You're a hard case, too.

Dragline: They took him right down that road.
Convicts: What'd he look like, Drag?...Yeah, what'd he look like?..He had his eyes opened or closed, Drag?
Dragline: He was smiling...That's right. You know, that, that Luke smile of his. He had it on his face right to the very end. Hell, if they didn't know it 'fore, they could tell right then that they weren't a-gonna beat him. That old Luke smile. Old Luke, he was some boy. Cool Hand Luke. Hell, he's a natural-born world-shaker.


  • The man...and the motion picture that simply do not conform.
  • On The Chain-Gang They'd Seen Every Kind Of Man - But Luke Became A Legend
  • "What we've got failure to communicate."
  • He was a cool customer. . .until the law made it hot for him!


External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address