Reminiscent of the warmth of a cool classic movie – Garden & Gun

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You clear and pave the roads of central Florida. The air is humid, sticky. Sweat gets into your eyes. Mosquitoes and ants bite. It’s so hot you’re knocked out with heatstroke – “bear-hit,” as your fellow inmates call it. Welcome to the life of a chain gang. There’s a man who doesn’t give in to sadistic authority, and he becomes a folk hero: Cool Hand Luke. When a television director, Stuart Rosenberg, read these scenes from Donn Pearce’s 1965 novel, he dreamed of bringing them to life in a feature film.

Cool Hand Luke premiered in 1967, featuring Paul Newman’s performance as a slick convict who mocks the authority of the freezing center. Luke earns the respect of even the toughest criminals, like Dragline, played by George Kennedy, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film also delivered this searing line: “What we have here is a communication failure.”

Almost all of the cast and crew are dead, but Rosenberg’s son Benjamin, himself an assistant director in Hollywood, remembers the shoot. “My dad was a die-hard New Yorker, but he directed episodes of a show called The Big Story in Mississippi and Georgia, so he had a feel for the South,” Benjamin says. “His doctorate in Irish literature also gave him a special appreciation for Luke’s refusal to back down.”

Rosenberg shot interiors on the grounds of Warner Brothers studios in Burbank, California. The crew built the exteriors, modeled after photos of a prison camp from Tavares, Florida to Stockton. “It was cheaper than going to Florida,” Benjamin recalls. “It was also the asparagus capital of the world, and it had great fertile farmland.” Decorators hung Spanish moss in the trees to make the Central Valley look like central Florida. When the prisoners appear to be clearing brush, the actors were actually digging hay, recycled with each shot.

But the heat and the tar were real. Between Burbank, one of the hippest spots in LA County, and the faux southern backdrops of Stockton, everyone was sweating. Rosenberg had practice casting with machetes and shovels in the backyard of the studio. The fight scene in the blinding sun between Newman and Kennedy took three days to film.

The beer helped cool them down. Newman even wore a can opener around his neck. Actor Ralph Waite, who played Alibi, said in a 2008 interview that Newman would open the trunk of his sedan and hand out cold ones. (Newman also perfected a salad: “Chopped celery hearts, a little olive oil, a little cold water, wine vinegar, and lots of salt and pepper,” he said. at Playboy in 1968. “It’s deservedly famous.”)

No matter how hot it was, the cast and crew played poker and drank until late. Lou Antonio, who played Koko, remembers when Waite decided to seriously calm down. “Lu! Ralph shouted, taking off his shirt. By the time he was two feet away from me, Ralph was completely naked with this big grin,” Antonio laughs. “That’s how we were with each other, and it got immersed in our characters.”

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