On This Day: ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Starring Paul Newman Released in Theaters in 1967

by John Jamison
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54 years ago today, the moviegoing public was blown away by one of Paul Newman’s most unforgettable performances. Cool Hand Luke stands out as a defining role in a legendary acting career spanning more than 50 years. It took Newman to a whole new level of artistic recognition. And Outsiders, we’re tellin’ ya, the movie holds up.

The iconic prison drama follows Luke, a man we first meet while he drunkenly steals parking meters. After being arrested, convicted, and sentenced to two years of hard time at a Florida prison, Luke decides that he will not let Boss Godfrey (Morgan Woodward) or the prison guards determine his fate.

Luke loses a fight to Dragline (George Kennedy)—a fellow inmate who grows to appreciate Luke throughout the movie. He wins a big poker hand on a stone-cold bluff—earning him the eponymous title. Luke inspires his fellow prisoners, attempts numerous escapes, and of course, eats 50 eggs on a bet.

In the end, Luke’s rebellious nature catches up with him as he gets shot in the neck by Godfrey and dies. But he only does so with a smile on his face, leaving Dragline to mourn his legend and share the story with the inmates left behind.

Cool Hand Luke was a critical smash, earning significant recognition at the 1968 Academy Awards. Paul Newman was nominated for the best actor Oscar. But the competition was stiff that year, and Rod Steiger ultimately won the award. However, Dragline actor George Kennedy took home the Best Supporting Actor.

If you’re in need of a movie to watch or have just been looking to scratch your Paul Newman itch, you can never go wrong with Cool Hand Luke.

No, Paul Newman Didn’t Actually Eat 50 Eggs in That Iconic Scene

Cool Hand Luke left us with plenty of memorable moments. There’s the iconic “what we’ve got here is failure to communicate” line delivered by Strother Martin’s Captain. And famously, there are the eggs.

For those who aren’t as familiar with the movie or just haven’t seen it in a while, Paul Newman’s character brags that he can down 50 eggs in an hour. Naturally, the other prisoners didn’t believe him, and a bet ensues. Well, it’s not exactly pleasant to watch, but sure enough, Luke chokes all 50 eggs down.

Dragline actor George Kennedy claims in his memoir that question fans most often asked whether or not Paul Newman actually ate the eggs. He did not, thankfully.

“There were garbage cans just outside of camera range. My guess is he consumed no more than eight or so, because as soon as the director yelled ‘cut,’ he would relieve his mouth and throat of everything he could,” Kennedy writes.

Outsider.com