The world has lost one of the greatest actors of the last half-century. Paul Newman “who personified cool . . died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport,” Connecticut. It says as much about the man as anything that, like Katharine Hepburn, he died where he lived — far from Hollywood.
While he starred in numerous box-office hits as well as critically-acclaimed films, nominated for ten Oscars, he always kept a distance from the culture of the entertainment industry. Maybe that accounted for his success.
He showed his dramatic range in the two Tennessee Williams movies he made, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth as well as in Hud, Cool Hand Luke and most recently Road to Perdition. My personal favorites, however, will always remain two of his greatest box-office successes, his (only, alas!) collaborations with Robert Redford,Â Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting.
Redford and Newman had perhaps the best friendship chemistry of any two actors in cinema, Newman the older brother figure, teaching his younger charge the tricks of the trade and leading him to the dark side where he (Newman) delivered some of his best performances. It’s unfortunate the two men did not collaborate more often
It wasn’t just Redford with whom Newman had such great chemistry. He also worked well with numerous actors and Hollywood stars, notably his wife of fifty years, Joanne Woodward. That relationship more than any other defined Paul Newman.
One of the most handsome men in the public eye, he had his pick of any starlet or hanger-on, yet remained faithful to his beloved. When asked why he never strayed, he replied, “I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?”
A class act he. Would it that we had more such men in Hollywood.
UPDATE: In a touching tribute to Newman, John Nolte writes:
Even for a movie star he was uncommonly handsome and charismatic. And yet, somehow, Paul Newman defied the odds. He was a good man.
And he offers this brilliant insight into Newman’s unique niche: “playing loners who disguised themselves as reprobates in order to hide both their loneliness and that they might give a damn about anything.”
And he offers this which defines the man’s decency — and his dignity:
A lifelong liberal, Newman, unlike too many of today’s stars, didnâ€˜t trash the other side. Instead, he was a proponent, an advocate, and â€” more importantly â€” one who put his money where his mouth was.
Read the whole thing.