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The evening portion of Turner Classic Movies’ “31 Days of Oscar” celebration starts tonight (Feb. 4) at 7 p.m. CST with one of Paul Newman’s finest performances of his career, “Cool Hand Luke.”
The 1967 film tells the story of a man, Luke, a decorated war veteran, who is sent to a chain gang prison after destroying parking meters while drunk. It’s a relatively minor offense and if Luke just does his time he can return to normal. But Luke won’t be curtailed by prison life and he ends up on the road to self-destruction.
Newman’s performance brings Luke’s self-destruction through, but at the same time he conveys the pressure Luke is under for being a rebel as the prisoners start living through him and making him their hero.
In another example of how the Oscars are far from perfect, Newman was nominated for best actor, but didn’t win. He would later win for his work in 1986’s “The Color of Money”, a movie far below in quality to “Cool Hand Luke.”
Stretcher Martin is exceptional as the sadistic warden and George Kennedy did win the best support actor Oscar for his portrayal of Newman’s prison friend Dragline.