A Cool Hand

A strange thing happened to me the day Paul Newman died.

But first some background: My running buddy and fellow priest Patrick Ward is a movie buff. Since he’s got about 16 years on me, he’s always bemoaning the fact that I’m about a generation behind on classic movies. I admit I’m a bit lacking in this area. Okay a lot. Sure I’ve seen Casablanca and I love The Caine Mutiny. I think I saw Easy Rider.

But every time he mentions a scene from, say, The Bridge on the River Kwai, while we’re out on the trails I have to hang my head and fess up that I have no idea what he’s talking about. So he’s taken it upon himself to round out my classic film education. I believe he sees it as his “bounden duty” (whatever that means).

After one of our usual Thursday morning 6-milers, he initiated my remedial education by handing me a copy of “Cool Hand Luke” starring a young Paul Newman. Newman died later that day which was slightly eerie.

I waited a couple of weeks, until I was alone in a hotel room in Newark, to watch it. And while I usually don’t hang out by myself in Newark hotel rooms (I was there for a Provincial Council meeting, thank you very much), it did feel like the perfect place to watch it. If you haven’t seen it, it is a great movie – the story of a chain gang in the rural south – and it’s full of Christological imagery. Not the scene with Joy Harmon; but Newman’s character is a true Christ-like figure for the other inmates. And it’s where the line “What we have here is a failure to communicate” came into the lexicon.

The education will continue, I’m sure.


One Comment on “A Cool Hand”

  1. Father Tim says:

    A parishioner wrote me the following:

    “On the day Paul Newman died I was at my beauty salon in White Plains. We were discussing the pros and cons of coloring your hair as you age. My hairdresser said that he thought gray hair made women look older, while gray hair makes men look distinguished. And I added, “Yes, just think about Paul Newman. I think he’s actually more handsome with gray hair.” And then later, I found out he had died that day. Mysterious.”

    She suggests my next movie experience should be “Hud” with Paul Newman and Patricia Neal. I’ll add it to the list!

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