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Paul Newman: Film Legend

Paul Newman was more than just an actor, or even a star; he was a legend. A great man, a great humanitarian, and a great artist, he will be missed.

paulnewman.jpg

Above: Paul New­man with Robert Red­ford in Octo­ber 2004. Pho­to by Evan Agostini/Getty Images.

As with Syd­ney Pol­lack and Tim Russert, this is one of those entries I real­ly hate hav­ing to write. Paul New­man, died on Fri­day at age 83, after a long bat­tle with can­cer.

Paul New­man was more than just an actor, or even a star; he was a leg­end. In today’s increas­ing­ly here today, for­got­ten tomor­row era of celebri­ty, being a leg­end is extreme­ly rare, and Hol­ly­wood has lost one its remain­ing few.

More than just a great actor and artist, New­man was also a human­i­tar­i­an and a gen­uine­ly good per­son. All that mon­ey from Newman’s Own went to char­i­ty. He start­ed camps and char­i­ty funds for ter­mi­nal­ly ill chil­dren. He was mar­ried to Joanne Wood­ward for 50 years — some­thing almost unheard of, Hol­ly­wood or any­where else.

A few years ago, Robert Red­ford spon­sored this thing for Sun­dance called “Icon­o­clasts”, where celebri­ties inter­view peo­ple they con­sid­er icons or per­son­al heroes. Red­ford inter­viewed New­man, and I remem­ber watch­ing that pro­gram and walk­ing way with even more respect for both men.

George Roy Hill (who would direct New­man in both The Sting and Slap Shot) direct­ed my favorite New­man film, Butch Cas­sidy and the Sun­dance Kid. I first saw “Butch Cas­sidy” in high school, and it res­onat­ed with me in a way few films have. The par­al­lels between Butch and Sundance’s real­iza­tion that their way of life is end­ing and the tur­bu­lence and end of ide­al­ism of the 1960s remains one of the more sub­tle, and I think pow­er­ful, mes­sages in all of cin­e­ma.

Paul New­man owned that role. He owned every role he every played. Whether it was Brick, the alco­holic and tor­tured (and tor­tu­ous) hus­band in Richard Brooks’ adap­ta­tion of Ten­nessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, or his roles as anti-heroes in Cool Hand Luke and The Col­or of Mon­ey and The Hus­tler, New­man made roles his own.

And the man was fun­ny! In addi­tion to “Slap Shots,” New­man was bril­liant in The Hud­suck­er Proxy, you know, “for kids.”

My cousin’s son LOVED him in Cars — the last film he did any major press for.

Just look­ing at his fil­mog­ra­phy, it is clear that the man was just flat out good.

Still, it was his per­son­al con­tri­bu­tions to help chil­dren, the sick and the poor that real­ly stand out. He was on Nixon’s Ene­mies List — some­thing of which he was very, very proud, and was nev­er embar­rassed to be labeled “a lib­er­al.” If more peo­ple like Paul New­man would embrace the lib­er­al label today, we might be able to fight back from the stig­ma ass­holes like Rush Lim­baugh, Sean Han­ni­ty and Bill O’Reilly try to attach to that ide­ol­o­gy.

Paul New­man was a leg­end, IS a leg­end, and his pres­ence will be missed.

Rest in Peace.

Paul Newman: 1925 — 2008

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3 people have left comments

Ken Car­pen­ter - Gravatar

Ken Car­pen­ter said:

You must rent “The Ver­dict” and “The Hus­tler.” Those two films are per­fect book­ends for his career.

Posted on: September 27, 2008 at 6:09 pmQuote this Comment
york pa roof­ing - Gravatar

york pa roof­ing said:

Yea he was a real leg­end. His chari­tiable con­tri­bu­tions are amaz­ing too. Great guy!

Posted on: October 10, 2008 at 8:03 amQuote this Comment
Guc­ci Scarpe - Gravatar

Guc­ci Scarpe said:

Aw, this was a very nice post. In idea I would like to put in writ­ing like this addi­tion­al­ly ?tak­ing time and actu­al effort to make an excel­lent article?but what can I say?I pro­cras­ti­nate alot and by no means seem to get one thing done.

Posted on: May 16, 2011 at 8:51 amQuote this Comment