Starring Paul Newman
Directed by Jack Smight
Screenplay by William Goldman
Based on the novel The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald
“As far as I’m concerned, this is the second best private eye movie ever made, after John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon. It’s based on the 1949 novel The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald (then using the name John Ross Macdonald, which he changed subsequently to avoid confusion with John D. MacDonald). In turn, Ross MacDonald was the pseudonym of Kenneth Millar, who was born in California but raised in Kitchener, Ontario.
The Moving Target was the first novel to feature Macdonald’s detective hero Lew Archer. Following on the success of 1961’s The Hustler, and 1963’s Hud, star Paul Newman wanted another film with a single word title starting with an H, hence the name change for the film.
Harper was William Goldman’s second produced screenplay, and his first solo credit. It has the kind of sharply observed, crisp dialogue that would make him one of Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriters and lure him away from his earlier career as a literary novelist.
There’s not much that’s special about the plot. It has a lot of the standard elements of almost all subsequent Macdonald novels, but it’s done with panache and verve. By far the best film Jack Smight ever directed.
The film follows Macdonald’s novel quite closely and features a remarkable cast including Lauren Bacall, Shelley Winters, Janet Leigh, Julie Harris, Robert Wagner, Arthur Hill, Robert Webber, and Pamela Tiffin.
That’s on the screen. In the lobby we’ll have a display of terrific private eye fiction, in paperback and hardcover, including several Ross Macdonald novels. We may also have some books on detective and mystery films.” (Peter Sellers)
Thursday, Jul 18 - 8:00pm