HARPER (director: Jack Smight; screenwriter: William Goldman/based on the novel The Moving Target’ by Ross McDonald; cinematographer: Conrad Hall; editor: Stefan Arnsten; music: Johnny Mandel; cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Elaine Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Shelley Winters (Fay Estabrook), Strother Martin (Claude), Robert Wagner (Alan Taggert), Pamela Tiffin (Miranda), Robert Webber (Dwight Troy), Harold Gould (Sheriff); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jerry Gershwin/Elliott Kastner; Warner DVD; 1966)
“A star-driven Paul Newman crime mystery drama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Jack Smight (“No Way to Treat A Lady”/”Airport”/”The Illustrated Man“) effortlessly directs in a breezy way this minor Chandler-like film noir. It’s a star-driven Paul Newman crime mystery drama, that’s based on the novel The Moving Target’ by Ross McDonald. It’s written by William Goldman. Ross Macdonald started in 1949 writing this detective series using as his hero detective Lew Archer. Because of Newman’s request, Archer was changed to Harper for the movie.
In LA, the lush downtrodden private detective, Lew Harper (Paul Newman), facing a divorce from his wife Susan (Janet Leigh), on the suggestion of his attorney friend Albert Graves (Arthur Hill), is hired by the acerbic crippled millionaire Elaine Sampson (Lauren Bacall) to find her missing husband. At Elaine’s estate Harper is introduced to her spoiled stepdaughter, Miranda (Pamela Tiffin), and the family’s handsome private pilot, Alan Taggert (Robert Wagner).
In his investigation Harper encounters an aging former starlet now an alcoholic, Fay Estabrook (Shelley Winters), her violent hubby (Robert Webber), a drug-addicted singer named Betty Fraley (Julie Harris) and the religious nut Claude (Strother Martin) living on a mountaintop site given him by Mr. Sampson.
It works as simple-minded entertainment.
REVIEWED ON 10/29/2014 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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