Sunday, September 28, 2008
from the OREGONIAN
Fast Eddie Felson. Hud Bannon. Cool Hand Luke. Butch Cassidy. The guy in the race car. The guy on the salad dressing bottle. The blue-eyed dreamboat. The committed public citizen. The husband of a half-century. The father of six.
According to press releases from his his charitable organizations, Newman's Own Foundation and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, Paul Newman died Friday at age 83 at his long-time home in Westport, Connecticut, and with his passing, more has been lost than just a good and fine man.
For a half-century, on screen and off, the actor Paul Newman embodied certain tendencies in the American male character: active and roguish and earnest and sly and determined and vulnerable and brave and humble and reliable and compassionate and fair. He was a man of his time, a part of his time, and that time ranged from World War II to the contemporary era of digitally animated feature films.
At the race track, circa 2006
In such movies as "The Long Hot Summer," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "The Hustler," "Hud," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting," "Slap Shot," "The Verdict," and "The Color of Money" -- to name only the most famous of them -- Newman combined heartthrob looks, a dedicated and evolving Method Acting style, good taste in material and collaborators, and a real sense of the cultural climate. His career spanned eras, and he always seemed to be in step and in style.
Although Newman was a World War II veteran who didn't become a bona fide star until he was in his 30s, his choices in movie roles could make him seem like a younger man; the iconoclastic individuality of his anti-hero characters resonated with the social upstarts of the '60s, who were the same age as his children. At the same time, he bore a cast of honor and manliness with him on screen that was so unquestionably real that he simultaneously retained the respect of older audiences. In a sense, he combined the rebelliousness associated with the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean with the rock-solid decency exuded by such stars as Henry Fonda and James Stewart. Fittingly, he entered movies as one of the last Hollywood contract players and then became one of the first independent superstars, commanding more than $1 million per film as early as the mid-1960s.
Newman made nearly 60 films, originated three classic roles on Broadway, delivered memorable performances in some of live television's finest dramas, served as president of the Actors Studio, won championships as a race car driver and racing team owner, started a food business on a whim and used it to raise nearly $400 million for assorted charities, founded an international chain of camps to offer free vacations and medical care to sick and deprived children, and participated in politics as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, as a delegate to a United Nations conference on nuclear proliferation and as part-owner of (and occasional guest columnist for) "The Nation" magazine.
"The Hustler," with Jackie Gleason, 1961
He was nominated for 10 Oscars (winning one, plus two honorary awards), had a closet full of other prizes, included Golden Globes, Emmys, and Screen Actors Guild Awards, was granted a Kennedy Center Honor (accepted in 1992 alongside his wife, Joanne Woodward, who was also honored) and a lifetime award from the Film Society of Lincoln Center (also shared with Woodward), and, even a best director prize from the New York Film Critics Circle for 1968's "Rachel, Rachel," which starred his wife.
He was a giant-sized star who shunned celebrity, living in Connecticut, avoiding awards shows, refusing for many years to give autographs, and sometimes resentful that so much of his fame rested on the unearned blessings of a handsome face, a lean body and, most notably, those stunning cobalt-blue eyes. As he got older, he flatly refused honors. When he won a SAG award, an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his role as a town rascal in the 2005 cable TV movie "Empire Falls," he showed up for none of them, explaining that he had set fire to his tuxedo when he turned 70. And his proudest achievement, he often bragged, was being named number 19 on President Richard Nixon's infamous enemies list.
COOL HAND LUKE - Dragline: "Stay down Luke yer beat" Luke:"You gonna have to kill me"
BUTCHCASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID "listen I don't mean to be a sore loser, but when this is over, if I'm dead...kill him"
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