"The bottom’s full of nice people, Albert. Only cream and bastards rise."
Description: Paul Newman as hard-boiled private eye Lew Harper offers his own special view of humanity to lawyer Albert Graves (Arthur Hill) in the motion picture Harper (1966).
Lew Harper is a Los Angeles private investigator. He is a cynical sort of guy but devoted to his profession. So much so, that his wife, Susan (Janet Leigh) has begun divorce proceedings because she is tired of having a workaholic for a husband.
"I used to be a sheriff until I passed my literacy test." - Lew Harper [to police]
Enter his next client: Elaine Sampson (Lauren Bacall), a physically disabled women (fell from a horse), whose wealthy husband Ralph Sampson has disappeared. He was last seen at the Van Nuys Airport after returning from Las Vegas some 24 hours earlier. Albert Graves who is romantically infatuated with the Sampson's daughter, Miranda (Pamela Tiffin) recommended Harper for the job.
|Miranda Sampson:||What do you do this kind of crummy work for, anyway?|
|Lew Harper:||What, are you trying to be funny? I do it because I believe in the United Nations and Southeast Asia, and - you think it's funny if your life depends on what goes through the Panama Canal? What about the English pound? I'll tell you something - as long as there's a Siberia, you'll find Lew Harper on the job.|
|Miranda Sampson:||Are you putting me on?|
|Lew Harper:||Jeez, I don't think so.|
Soon enough, the Sampson receives a kidnapper's ransom note demanding a payment of $500,000. Harper reports his findings to his client. "I think that note was dictated. Your husband keeps some pretty lousy company, Mrs. Sampson, as bad as there is in L.A. And that's as bad as there is. She replies, "I knew it. Oh, he loves playing the family man, but he never fooled me. Water seeks its own level, and that should leave Ralph bathing somewhere in a sewer."
Harper's investigation eventually uncovers an assortment of unsavory characters, including Betty Fraley (Julie Harris), a stoned lounge singer; Allen Taggert (Robert Wagner), a handsome, but devious playboy; Robert Webber, (Dwight Troy), a nasty guy with a gun; Fay Estabrook (Shelley Winters), an overweight, alcoholic, ex-movie star, and Claude (Strother Martin), an eccentric religious cult leader connected to an illegal-alien smuggling ring.
In the end, it was revealed that Harper's best friend Albert Graves killed Sampson for the money, and Miranda Sampson. As they drive to the mansion to return the stolen money, Albert comes clean about his involvment in the kidnapping plot. When they arrive at the mansion, Lew Harper exits the vehicle to return the money and expose Albert, but his best best friend is unable to kill Harper. Albert signs, "Ah hell" and refuses to shoot. Harper stops his approach to the manison, drops the money, says, "Ah Hell!" and raises his hands as if to surrender.
Note: The private eye character of Lew Harper is based on the novels of Ross McDonald.
In the sequel film The Drowning Pool (1975), Paul Newman reprised his role of private eye Lew Harper as he travels to the Louisiana bayou county to aid Iris Devereaux (Joanne Woodward), an old flame who is being blackmailed and soon finds himself up against J.H. Kilbourne (Murray Hamilton), a greedy oil baron, who wants her property. Melanie Griffith also stars as the women's nymphomaniac daughter who makes Harper's visit titillatingly uncomfortable.
|J.H. Kilbourne:||I ran a check on you, Mr. Harper. You are not stupid.|
|Lew Harper:||I have my moments.|
|J.H. Kilbourne:||You wanna live, don't you? To a ripe old age?|
|Lew Harper:||I'd hate to think that I was making those Social Security payments for nothing.|
|J.H. Kilbourne:||You know what she wants to do with that land, Mr. Harper? She wants to turn it into a Goddam sanctuary for birds!|
|Lew Harper:||I think that's kind of sweet.|
|J.H. Kilbourne:||Well now, look, I'm all for saving wildlife like the next fella, but we gotta think about America's future. Energy sources just aren't that easy to come by.|
|Lew Harper:||Aha! Did you come to that conclusion out of patriotism or just greed?|
|J.H. Kilbourne:||Little of both, Mr Harper, - like most men of wealth.|