Harper (The Moving Target)


Harper (The Moving Target)

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.



Total Count: 18


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,676
User image

Harper (The Moving Target) Photos

Movie Info

Screenwriter William Goldman has claimed that Paul Newman agreed to do Harper, the film that established the grateful writer's career, only because he was working unhappily on Lady L. (1965) in Europe, and was looking for something as unlike that film as possible. He stars as Lew Harper, a hip L.A. private dick whose business has gotten so bad that he's re-using his coffee grounds. At the suggestion of his friend, attorney Albert Graves (Arthur Hill), the detective takes on the investigation of the disappearance of the wealthy husband of waspish cripple Elaine Sampson (Lauren Bacall). After finding a photograph of former actress Fay Estabrook (Shelley Winters), Harper locates the alcoholic actress in a bar, plies her with booze, and takes her home to search her apartment while she's unconscious. There he takes a call which leads him to another bar to meet Betty Fraley (Julie Harris), a singer with a heroin problem. To curtail his inquisitive behavior, some large and unpleasant gentleman beat him up outside the saloon. Hoping for sympathy from his soon to be ex-wife (Janet Leigh), who has just filed divorce papers, the weary detective is much more successful than he has any right to expect.

Watch it now


Paul Newman
as Lew Harper
Lauren Bacall
as Mrs. Simpson
Julie Harris
as Betty Fraley
Pamela Tiffin
as Miranda Simpson
Arthur Hill
as Albert Graves
Janet Leigh
as Susan Harper
Robert Wagner
as Alan Traggert
Robert Webber
as Dwight Troy
Shelley Winters
as Fay Estabrook
Harold Gould
as Sheriff Spanner
Roy Jenson
as Puddler
Jacqueline de Wit
as Mrs. Kronberg
Richard Carlyle
as Fred Platt
Tom Steele
as Eddie Fraley
China Lee
as Dancer
View All

Critic Reviews for Harper (The Moving Target)

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (4)

  • By combining flamboyant suspense with a sunbaked slice of life and lots of good mean fun, Director Smight makes every clue a pleasure to follow.

    Sep 30, 2008 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • Director Jack Smight has inserted countless touches which illuminate each character to the highest degree.

    Sep 30, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Enjoyable performances throughout. Just the same, a very minor Big Sleep.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • [Newman] is too fresh, too ruggedly good looking to be consistent as the sort of beat-up slob that his shady detective is intended to be and as Mr. Bogart used to be.

    May 9, 2005 | Full Review…
  • The Drowning Pool plods along while Harper's pacing has a lot more momentum. Harper is hip and The Drowning Pool takes itself too seriously.

    Nov 7, 2018 | Full Review…
  • A star-driven Paul Newman crime mystery drama.

    Nov 2, 2014 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Harper (The Moving Target)

  • Aug 14, 2011
    No more no less than a sixties update on Philip Marlowe, with dinner theater lines given good location shooting. The mystery is only a matter of eliminating the obvious which leaves the charisma of the actors involved to carry the piece. Newman has fun as Mar ... er ... the gumshoe. Bacall is no longer the rich man's daughter but now his disgruntled wife although essentially the same character. Strother Martin as a cult leader is without a doubt just a fun casting choice.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jan 27, 2011
    A predictable detective story enriched by Paul Newman's stylish performance :P A few minutes into it and you'd probably know who the perpetrator is.
    familiar s Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    This is a spy movie where everyone is a criminal, everyone! I bet you can guess the end just by knowing that. Now, what's the point in seeing this? I wish I hadn't wasted the time. Overall, it's not bad, it's just not good either.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Jan 18, 2010
    Just an amazing movie. It's got a great blend of comedy and suspense. Paul Newman gives a great performance as Harper, the world's greatest private eye. It's got a great plot that is both fun and intelligent. I think my favorite element is the above-average cinematography and attention to detail. It's not just another detective story, it's a very unique and unforgettable character piece.
    Conner R Super Reviewer

Harper (The Moving Target) Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features