Paul Newman, Hollywood legend, dies at 83
HOLLYWOOD legend Paul Newman has died.
The 83-year-old yesterday lost his battle with lung cancer, passing away peacefully surrounded by friends and family.
The star, famed for his steely blue eyes and his "face born for movies", had been fighting the disease for a year and a half.
His death also ended one of the greatest marriages in Tinseltown.
He met the love of his life Joanne Woodward while filming 1958 classic Long, Hot Summer.
Tributes yesterday flowed in for Newman, who gave away most of his fortune, some of it from his hugely successful salad dressings, to charity and liberal causes.
For half a century, Paul Newman, the screen legend with the famously piercing blue-eyed gaze but easy smile outshone many of the brightest stars. Yesterday, however, he finally lost a battle with cancer.
The 83-year-old died at his farmhouse in Connecticut, surrounded by family and close friends. He did so after giving away much of a multimillion-dollar fortune earned playing some of the greatest roles of the 20th century, including Butch Cassidy and Cool Hand Luke.
Last night, in a joint statement, Newman's five daughters paid a moving tribute, saying: "Our father was a rare symbol of selfless humility, the last to acknowledge what he was doing was special. He quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity."
Newman came to film acting late, after serving his country in the Pacific War with Japan, a hero in life as well as on celluloid. But cinema was not his only passion: aside from acting and directing, he was an enthusiastic motor racer, an entrepreneur, passionate cook and, above all, philanthropist.
The vice-chairman of Newman's Own Foundation, Robert Forrester, yesterday spelled out the star's commitment to others. "Paul Newman's craft was acting," he said. "His passion was racing. His love was his family and friends. And his heart and soul were dedicated to helping make the world a better place for all.
"Paul had an abiding belief in the role that luck plays in one's life, and its randomness. He was quick to acknowledge the good fortune he had in his own life, beginning with being born in America and was acutely aware of how unlucky so many others were. True to his character, he quietly devoted himself to helping offset this imbalance."
Much of the Foundation's money came from the sale of Paul Newman's Salad Dressings, a passion initially mocked as a star's vanity project. In fact, his range of sauces, launched in 1982, has raised more than 100m for charity and become a phenomenal worldwide success.
The son of a Jewish shopkeeper from Ohio and a Hungarian mother, Newman was born, in 1925, into a far from privileged life. He was called up to fight the Japanese in 1943, but his hopes of becoming a pilot were dashed when a medical exam found his eyes, however beautiful, were far from perfect: he was colour-blind. Instead the youngster was trained as a radio operator/gunner.
He was due to take part in the Battle of Okinawa but was held back because his pilot had an ear infection. Everyone else in his detail died.
Newman's career spanned more than half a century and brought him critical glory and huge wealth. He was nominated for 10 Oscars and won one, in 1987 for The Color Of Money. But other roles achieved cult status. He played alongside Robert Redford in 1969's Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and he lit up classics such as The Sting and The Hustler.
Some of his best acting work was alongside his wife Joanne Woodward, with whom he fell in love while making the 1958 film The Long, Hot Summer. They never parted, despite his reputation as the looker of his age. So why did their Hollywood marriage last? Newman had his own explanation: "Why fool around with hamburgers, when you have steak at home."
Presenter Sir Michael Parkinson summed up Newman's importance to modern cinema. "He was a link between a generation that had Cary Grant and James Stewart and all those great people and Tom Cruise. He was that bridge between the two and in that gap he was the best of the lot."
Newman could play good guys and bad guys, but the audience always warmed to him and those steely blue eyes. He could play funny and he could play sad.
His friend Forrester stressed that Newman never thought of himself as a great talent. "Paul took advantage of what life offered him, and while personally reluctant to acknowledge that he was doing anything special, he forever changed the lives of many with his generosity, humour and humanness," he said.
Newman also knew how to get the best out of other talents, not least his wife, who won an Oscar nomination for Rachel, Rachel, which he directed in 1968. Not all Newman's directors appreciated the star, at least not his pranks, for which he was famous. He once sawed George Roy Hill's desk in half. On another occasion he deep-fried director Robert Altman's favourite deerskin gloves.
But there was a serious side too. Newman and Woodward were passionate liberals who stood up to McCarthyite attacks on Hollywood in the 1950s. Richard Nixon, the disgraced US president, was said to have listed Newman as an enemy. That, said the actor, "was the highest honour I ever received".
The couple championed unfashionable causes, not least that of drugs addicts. Newman's son, by his first marriage, died of an overdose in 1978.
The star adored cars. He competed in the Le Mans 24-hour race and, aged 70, drove in a road race at Florida's Daytona. But even as an energetic pensioner, age and illness caught up with Newman.
He retired last year, saying: "You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention. So I think that's pretty much a closed book for me."
That, it emerged, was just an excuse. Newman had been suffering from cancer for a year and a half.
In an interview, Newman expressed surprise that he had lived into his eighties.
"You can't be as old as I am without waking up with a surprised look on your face every morning: 'Holy Christ, whaddaya know – I'm still around.' It's absolutely amazing that I survived all the booze and smoking and the cars and the career."
His best loved films
Long Hot Summer, 1958 Ben Quick, played by Newman, arrives in a new town and a businessman decides the fresh arrival would make a good husband for his daughter. Relationships come to the boil. Newman won best actor at the Cannes Film festival.
The Hustler, 1961 'Fast' Eddie Felson is a small-time pool hustler with a lot of talent but a self-destructive attitude. Newman won a Bafta for best leading actor and was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
Cool Hand Luke, 1967 (left) Newman plays a cool, gutsy prisoner in a Southern chain gang who refuses to buckle under authority. Newman was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, 1969 Two bank and train robbers flee to Bolivia when the law gets too close. Newman played opposite longtime friend Robert Redford and was nominated for a Bafta.
The Sting, 1973 In 1930s Chicago, a young con man seeking revenge for the murder of his partner teams up with a master of the big con to win a fortune from a criminal banker. Also starred Robert Redford.
The Color Of Money, 1986 Fast Eddie Felson returns and teaches a cocky, but talented protg the ropes of pool hustling, which in turn inspires him to make a comeback. Newman won an Oscar for best actor.
'A chiselled face and a mouth that was both sensual and sardonic'
"YOU gotta have balls and you gotta have brains," Eddie Felson tells his protg in The Color Of Money, revealing the secret of pool hustling – and acting.
Paul Newman's fame came with a series of unforgettable performances, often as a fallible, charming survivor, in such films as The Hustler, Hud, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and The Sting.
Perhaps the film Newman is most identified with is Cool Hand Luke – released in 1967 and one of his many missed Oscar opportunities – in which he played a prisoner who maintains inner freedom despite the brutalities of a Deep South chain gang. Co-star George Kennedy won the Academy Award instead, but the egg-eating contest may be the scene most men recall when they think of Newman.
He was nominated seven times before he won his one Oscar in 1987, when he revisited his Hustler role as an older man for The Color Of Money. It would have made more sense if he had won it the first time he played Fast Eddie – but at least it acknowledged his real worth. It wasn't the blue eyes. It was the red blood and the grey matter.
Yet Newman's looks have always intrigued; a chiselled face almost delicate in its lines, a martyr's cerulean eyes, and a mouth that managed to be both sensual and sardonic.
Arguably, he was the best actor of his generation because of other assets: the courage he displayed playing anti-heroes in Hud (1963) and The Verdict (1982), and the intelligence he gave his characters in Slap Shot (1977), Absence Of Malice (1981), and Nobody's Fool (1994). Yet he was never hard work on set. "He loves to have a good time," Robert Redford once told me, recalling how easily Newman is distracted. "He has the attention span of a bolt of lightning."
Newman's movie life did not begin gloriously. His coming out party, in 1954, was The Silver Chalice, a toga classic.
When interviewed, he could never remember any of his great movie lines, but he could always recall the New Yorker magazine review: "Newman delivered his lines with the emotional fervour of a Putnam Division conductor announcing local stops."
Newman's looks and shrewd one-liners make watching even his mediocre films watchable. But when it comes to his more idiosyncratic, chip-on-the-shoulder roles, such as humble boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and a neurotic Billy the Kid in The Left Handed Gun (1958), he's so commanding, you can't get enough of the blue-eyed boy even when he's in black and white.
The shrewd sense of irony present on screen was also Newman's own. Nothing delighted him more than when people told him they disliked his acting or his politics – but admired his racing or food.
He framed a letter from one correspondent who complimented his spaghetti sauce: "My girlfriend mentioned that you were a movie star and I would be interested to know what you've made. If you act as well as you cook, your movies would be worth watching."
There was a PS: "Are any of your movies on video?"
What the critics said
"Newman is an actor-star in the way that Bogart was. His range isn't enormous; he can't do classics, any more than Bogart could. But when a role is right for him, he's peerless." Pauline Kael, review of Slap Shot, 1977
"Newman you know all about. At his age he has such sex appeal that when the husband gets jealous, we believe it. He has that shucks, ma'am grin, and then you see in his eyes the look of a man who is still driving race cars, and can find an opening at 160 mph." Roger Ebert, review of Where The Money Is, 2000
"Mr Newman is perhaps the most resourceful and dramatically restrained of the lot. He give an ingratiating picture of a tortured and tested young man." Bosley Crowther, New York Times review of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, 1958
"But what really made everyone out there like him was that he became the rebel with a cause. As Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy, Newman gave his audiences a vicarious thrill by thumbing his nose at an unjust society. It wasn't the blue eyes. It was the red blood and the grey matter." The 100 Greatest Stars of All Time, Entertainment Weekly. (Newman is No 13)
"He understands that the biggest job of being an actor, the hardest thing to do, is to really capture 45 seconds of truth on film in the course of a long day." Actor Tom Hanks, 2002
"He was a shining example of how to use global fame for the greater good and, most of all, he was one of the great movie actors of this or any other age. For me, personally, working with him was the highlight of my professional life." Oscar-winning British director Sam Mendes, who worked with Newman on the 2002 film Road to Perdition
"There is a point where feelings go beyond words. I have lost a real friend. My life – and this country – is better for his being in it." Robert Redford
"He was one of the greatest screen actors of all time and a beautiful man. I think an era just ended." James Bond star Daniel Craig, who appeared alongside Newman in Road to Perdition
"Paul Newman was a great, humble giant. He said it was all down to luck, but the rest of us know it was his talent, wit and generous heart that made him the star he was." American Oscar winner Kevin Spacey
"I knew him only a little; at work, on the race track and in his charity. In all cases, the common feature was his easy smile, his unshakeable determination and his unaffected and sincere concern for others. He was one of nature's gentlemen." Kenneth Branagh
"An artist, gentleman and humanitarian whose extraordinary career was rivalled in every respect by an exemplary life." Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America
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