RARA-AVIS: Archer vs. Harper

J. Kingston Pierce (jpwrites@sprynet.com)
Thu, 17 Jun 1999 12:13:21 -0700

>> Why was it necessary to change Lew's last name from Archer to Harper?
>> Tom
>Paul Newman thought short movie titles beginning with 'H' were lucky for
>him. Those I can remember were (The)Hustler, Hud and Hombre.
>Mark Blumenthal

According to Tom Nolan's authoritative new "Ross Macdonald: A Biography," this isn't the reason why Newman made the name changes. On page 261, Nolan explains that before making Ross Macdonald's novel "The Moving Target" into a movie, United Artists "wanted to secure exclusive rights to Archer.
[Author Kenneth] Millar wasn't giving those away; he thought fifty thousand dollars was a fair asking sum--and he was adamant, he told [agent Ivan] von Auw: `I'd much rather see the deal fall through than risk having Archer lost in the clutches of the Warner octopus....I say nuts.' Warners wasn't willing to pay Millar's price. The studio's solution: use the book [producer Elliott] Kastner owned but not its title, and change the detective's name.
[Screenwriter William] Goldman was asked to rename the hero. `I came up with
"Harper," he said, `because it was almost the same: Lew Harper, Lew Archer.' Thus the film became `Harper.' Newman's wife, Joanne Woodward, later claimed on The Tonight Show that Archer's name was changed because Newman had had two hits (`Hud,' 'The Hustler') with H titles. Goldman's response: `If you know anything about the movie business, you know it's all bullshit.'"

-- Jeff Pierce

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