Harper is the story of a private eye in a cheap suit prowling the mean streets of Southern California. The opening scene shows our hero, detective Lew Harper, waking up after a restful night sleeping fully-clothed in his office. He goes to the coffee maker and discovers there are no coffee grounds. No problem. He takes the old grounds out of the wastebasket and makes himself a fresh pot. And that scene, I submit, is a metaphor for the whole movie. Recycled plot without a whole lot of fresh ideas.
The premise of Harper starts out pretty well. He’s hired to look for a missing person, by jaded rich wife Mrs. Sampson played by Lauren Bacall. On his travels looking for Mr. Sampson, Harper runs across every stereotypical whacko that was produced by California in the 1960s. Everything from the idle rich, a mindless teeny-bopper twisting to bubble gum on a 5 transistor radio, a playboy fortune hunter, police with skills rivaling those of Barney Fife, weird religious cultists, burned out drug addict lounge singers, illegal aliens, wife-swappers, etc., etc. All this tied together with a razor thin plot and character development that nearly reaches comic book standards. —Epinions.com
Emmy Award-winning director Jack Smight was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on March 9, 1925, the offspring of Irish immigrants. After graduating from the unfortunately named Cretin High School, where he was a classmate of Peter Graves, he served in the US Army Air Force during World War Two, where he flew combat missions in the Pacific Theater. After the war he attended the University of Minnesota, where he again met up with Graves—both were matriculating in the theater department as drama students. After graduation they hooked up in Hollywood, where they rented a room and made the rounds, looking for work as actors while Jack worked as a carhop and Peter drove a cab, ignoring the advice of Graves’ older brother, James Arness to head straight back to Minneapolis.
Unlike his friend, Smight did not achieve success as an actor and became a stage manager and then turned to directing. Graves later said of his friend that his acting background helped him understand actors. “He was… read more
3 1/2 out of 5 stars. Harper is like the pothead spawn of an alcoholic Raymond Chandler novel. Sure he lives in his old man's shadow and scrambles around more than he needs to. Harper's damn pretty, has a great cast and talks smooth. He's also decent and entertaining despite being scatterbrained as hell by the end.