Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman R.I.P.

Actor Paul Newman passed yesterday at the age of 83. The cause was lung cancer.

Paul Newman was born January 26, 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Newman's mother was an active fan of the theatre and so Newman naturally developed an interest in the thespian arts. He made his acting debut at the age 7 playing the court jester in a school play, Robin Hood. Following his graduation from high school, he attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He spent less than a year there, deciding to enlist in the Navy. He had wanted to be a pilot, but it was discovered he was colour blind, the Navy made him a radio operator instead. After World War II Newman attended Kenyon College in Gambler, Ohio on a football scholarship. While there he performed in several plays.

Following his father's death in May 1950, Paul Newman returned to Ohio to manage family's sporting goods store. It was only a little over a year that he convinced his brother to take over the store and Newman went to Yale University to study theatrical directing. He left Yale University in 1952 and started concentrating on acting full time. Newman's television debut had been as a regular on The Aldrich Family in 1949, but in 1952 he began appearing on television more frequently. His second appearance on television was that year, on an episode of Tales of Tomorrow. He also appeared in episodes of Suspense and The Web.

It was in 1953 that he made his debut on Broadway in Picnic, playing a small role in the play. Director Joshua Logan very quickly gave him Alan Seymour, the second male lead role in the show. Newman continued to appear on television, in episodes of You Are There, The Mask, Goodyear Television Playhouse, and Danger. In 1954 he made his screen debut in The Silver Chalice. Newman continued to appear on television, in episodes of The Philco Television Playhouse (playing Billy the Kid, no less) and Appointment with Adventure. In 1955 he appeared in Somebody Up There Likes Me. Except for episodes of The United States Steel Hour, The Kaiser Aluminum Hour and Playhouse 90, Newman would not act on television again, except for a part in a television adaptation of Come Along with Me in 1982, until the Naughts.

Newman's film career would really take off in 1958. That year he appeared in such major films as The Long, Hot Summer, The Left Handed Gun (as Billy the Kid again), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, playing the male lead in all three. From the Sixties into the Seventies Newman would be one of the most successful actors of all time, appearing in several classic films. Among them were The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, The Sting, and Slap Shot. During this period he was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor for The Hustler, Hud, and Cool Hand Luke.

Newman's screen acting career would slow down in the Eighties, although he still made several successful movies, including Fort Apache the Bronx, The Colour of Money, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Road to Perdition. He provided the voice of Doc Hudson in Cars. He appeared on television in a 2003 production of Our Town and the telefilm Empire Falls in 2005.

Newman also had a career as a film director. He made his directorial debut with Rachel, Rachel in 1968. He would go onto direct Sometimes a Great Notion, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Harry and Son, and the 1987 version of the Glass Menagerie. He also received a producer's credit on several films, including Winning, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, They Might Be Giants.

Newman also had a career on stage. On Broadway he appeared in The Desperate Hours in 1955, Sweet Bird of Youth in 1959, Baby Want A Kiss in 1964, and a revival of Our Town in 2002.

Following his role in the movie Winning in 1969, Newman developed an interest auto racing. He went attended racing school. He raced professionally for the first time in 1972 in Thompson, Connecticut. He would win several n Sports Car Club of America championships. He also owned his own racing team in the Can-Am series and founded Newman/Haas Racing with Carl Haas, a Champ car team, in 1983.

Newman was married to Joanne Woodward for fifty years. The two first met in 1953 in Picnic, but as he was married at the time, they would not have a romantic relationship for a few years. The two would work together several times, including the movies From the Terrace, Harry and Son, and Mr. and Mrs. Bridge.

Paul Newman was one of my favourite actors of all time and, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest as well. While he was saddled with a pretty boy image very early in his career, he quickly overcame that and established himself as one of the best motion picture actors in the field. In many respects Newman was a chameleon, capable of playing many different sorts of roles. In The Hustler and The Colour of Money he played small time pool hustler Fast Eddie. In Cool Hand Luke he played the rebellious, but self destructive convict of the title, who resisted the prison's attempts to break him. In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid he played the fun loving Cassidy. In The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean he starred as Judge Roy Bean, the at times curmudgeonly judge who often made up the laws as he went along. Newman very rarely played the same sort of role twice. He was a truly great actor, definitely one of the best of his generation.

1 comment:

Squirrel said...

He was such a great actor. Cool Hand Luke. It was sad to hear of his illness and passing.

I LOVE him in Slap Shot-- I have it on DVD--he really makes that film work.

Sometimes a Great Notion -- Loved both the book and film. I could see why he'd want to do that--he was the perfect choice to play Hank Stamper.

I really liked this weird cutesy movie he made with Joanne Woodward --totally goofy stuff-- " new kind of love" mostly because I really liked them as a couple.

I would watch a bad film like "message in a bottle" just to see Newman's moments in it as Costner's dad.

Can't even think of all his films--so many of them.