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A man refuses to conform to life in a rural prison.
Captain, Road Prison 36: What we got here is... failure to communicate.
Boss: Sorry, Luke. I'm just doing my job. You gotta appreciate that. Luke: Nah - calling it your job don't make it right, Boss.
[Luke won a game of poker on a bluff] Dragline: Nothin'. A handful of nothin'. You stupid mullet head. He beat you with nothin'. Just like today when he kept comin' back at me - with nothin'. Luke: Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
Captain, Road Prison 36: What we've got here is... failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it... well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men.
Luke: Yeah well... sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.
Dragline: He was smiling... That's right. You know, that, that Luke smile of his. He had it on his face right to the very end. Hell, if they didn't know it 'fore, they could tell right then that they weren't a-gonna beat him. That old Luke smile. Oh, Luke. He was some boy. Cool Hand Luke. Hell, he's a natural-born world-shaker.
Carr: Them clothes got laundry numbers on them. You remember your number and always wear the ones that has your number. Any man forgets his number spends a night in the box. These here spoons you keep with you. Any man loses his spoon spends a night in the box. There's no playing grab-ass or fighting in the building. You got a grudge against another man, you fight him Saturday afternoon. Any man playing grab-ass or fighting in the building spends a night in the box. First bell's at five minutes of eight when you will get in your bunk. Last bell is at eight. Any man not in his bunk at eight spends the night in the box. There is no smoking in the prone position in bed. To smoke you must have both legs over the side of your bunk. Any man caught smoking in the prone position in bed... spends a night in the box. You get two sheets. Every Saturday, you put the clean sheet on the top... the top sheet on the bottom... and the bottom sheet you turn in to the laundry boy. Any man turns in the wrong sheet spends a night in the box. No one'll sit in the bunks with dirty pants on. Any man with dirty pants on sitting on the bunks spends a night in the box. Any man don't bring back his empty pop bottle spends a night in the box. Any man loud talking spends a night in the box. You got questions, you come to me. I'm Carr, the floor walker. I'm responsible for order in here. Any man don't keep order spends a night in... Luke: ...the box. Carr: I hope you ain't going to be a hard case. Luke: [Smiles, shakes head] .
Luke: Well that oughta be easy for a genuine son of a bitch.
[Discussing God and the rain] Luke: Let him go. Bam, Bam. Dragline: Knock it off, Luke. You can't talk about Him that way. Luke: Are you still believin' in that big bearded Boss up there? You think he's watchin' us? Dragline: Get in here. Ain't ya scared? Ain't ya scared of dyin'? Luke: Dyin'? Boy, he can have this little life any time he wants to. Do ya hear that? Are ya hearin' it? Come on. You're welcome to it, ol' timer. Let me know you're up there. Come on. Love me, hate me, kill me, anything. Just let me know it. [He looks around] Luke: I'm just standin' in the rain talkin' to myself.
Dragline: Why you got to go and say fifty eggs for? Why not thirty-five or thirty-nine? Luke: I thought it was a nice round number.
Luke: I can eat fifty eggs. Dragline: Nobody can eat fifty eggs. Society Red: You just said he could eat anything. Dragline: Did you ever eat fifty eggs? Luke: Nobody ever eat fifty eggs. Prisoner: Hey, Babalugats. We got a bet here. Dragline: My boy says he can eat fifty eggs, he can eat fifty eggs. Loudmouth Steve: Yeah, but in how long? Luke: A hour. Society Red: Well, I believe I'll take part of that wager.
Dragline: That's my darling Luke. He grins like a baby but bites like a gator.
Dragline: [encouraging Luke in the egg-eating] Just let that li'l ol' belly sag and enjoy yourself!
Arletta: Ya know, sometimes I wished people was like dogs, Luke.
Luke: Oh come on. Stop beatin' it. Get out there yourself. Stop feedin' off me. Get out of here. I can't breathe. Give me some air.
Captain, Road Prison 36: You gonna get used to wearin' them chains afer a while, Luke. Don't you never stop listenin' to them clinking. 'Cause they gonna remind you of what I been saying. For your own good. Luke: Wish you'd stop bein' so good to me, cap'n.
[Moving through the crowd, all excited about the record breaking egg eating about to take place] Dragline: Alright, stand back you pedestrians, this ain't no automobile accident.
Carr: Any man playing grabass or fightin' in the building spends a night in the box.
[Why he was cutting the heads off parking meters] Luke: Small town, not much to do in the evenin'.
Arletta: Why, we always thought you was strong enough to carry it. Was we wrong? Luke: I don't know. Well, things are just never the way they seem, Arletta, you know that. A man's just gotta go his own way.
Dragline: Where'd the road go? Luke: That's it. That's the end of it. Convict: Man, there's still daylight. Dragline: About two hours left. Convict: What do we do now? Luke: Nothin'. Dragline: Oh Luke, you wild, beautiful thing. You crazy handful of nothin'.
Dragline: [watching sexy girl wash a car] My Lord, whatever I done, don't strike me blind for another couple of minutes.
Luke's Nephew: [on visiting day] Uncle Luke? Why can't *you* have chains? Luke: John-boy, lemme tell you something. You know, them chains ain't medals. You get 'em for making mistakes. And you make a *bad* enough mistake, and then you gotta deal with the Man. And he is one rough old boy.
[Dragline has repeatedly knocked Luke down during a boxing match] Dragline: Stay down. You're beat. Luke: You're gonna hafta kill me... [struggles back to his feet]
Captain, Road Prison 36: You run one time, you got yourself a set of chains. You run twice you got yourself two sets. You ain't gonna need no third set, 'cause you gonna get your mind right.
Dragline: He's a natural born world-shaker.
Dragline: Anything so innocent and built like that just gotta be named Lucille.
[Alone in a church, talking to God, as police lights begin flashing] Luke: Is that your answer, old man? Well, I guess you're a hard case too.
[Discussing a new prisoner who has to spend the night in the box] Dragline: He ain't in the box because of the joke played on him. He back-sassed a free man. They got their rules. We ain't got nothin' to do with that. Would probably have happened to him sooner or later anyway, a complainer like him. He gotta learn the rules the same as anybody else. Luke: Yeah, them poor old bosses need all the help they can get.
Dog Boy: Look Cap'n, look what he done to Blue. He's dead, he's dead. he run himself plum to death.
Captain, Road Prison 36: Now, I can be a good guy, or I can be one real mean sum-bitch.
Luke: Anybody here? Hey, Old Man. You home tonight? Can You spare a minute. It's about time we had a little talk. I know I'm a pretty evil fellow... killed people in the war and got drunk... and chewed up municipal property and the like. I know I got no call to ask for much... but even so, You've got to admit You ain't dealt me no cards in a long time. It's beginning to look like You got things fixed so I can't never win out. Inside, outside, all of them... rules and regulations and bosses. You made me like I am. Now just where am I supposed to fit in? Old Man, I gotta tell You. I started out pretty strong and fast. But it's beginning to get to me. When does it end? What do You got in mind for me? What do I do now? Right. All right. [Gets on knees, closes eyes and begins to pray] Luke: . On my knees, asking. [Peeks up with one eye, waits. Then opens eyes and crosses arms] Luke: . Yeah, that's what I thought. I guess I'm pretty tough to deal with, huh? A hard case. [Clicks tongue] Luke: . Yeah. I guess I gotta find my own way. [Headlights shine through windows, backs up] Dragline: Luke? Luke: [Shakes head and smiles] Is that Your answer, Old Man? I guess You're a hard case, too.
Boss Paul: That ditch is Boss Kean's ditch. And I told him that dirt in it's your dirt. What's your dirt doin' in his ditch? Luke: I don't know, Boss. Boss Paul: You better get in there and get it out, boy.
Arletta: She don't have no hopes nor love to give her pain. Arletta: She just don't give a damn.