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Paul Newman – Never Forgotten

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We were very saddened to hear of Paul Newman’s death over the weekend.

A great actor but, more importantly, a great man, a great human being.

A man of principle and courage.

A man of bravery who saw action in the airforce in WWII.

A man of political convictions, a liberal activist who risked all in his support for anti-Vietnam war Senator Eugene McCarthy.

A man who worked to earn countless millions for charities. And did so without brouhaha and without the aim of thereby gaining publicity that would bring later personal reward – unlike Angelina Jolie and the ilk nowadays. Amazingly, in early 2008 the Newman’s Own Web site reported it had donated more than $220 million to charity.

A man who became an accomplished rally driver and won a podium place at the gruelling Le Mans rally.

A man of great intelligence and humour.

A man who could eat a hell of a lot of eggs!

We will always remember the greatness of Paul Newman!

All commiserations to his family and loved ones.

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Paul Newman may be best known for saying, “Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.”

Like he would have known.

Paul Newman robbed banks with Robert Redford, raced automobiles, ate 50 eggs, had his thumbs broken, donated more than $200 million to charity, lost his first major film role to James Dean, blew up a million-gallon water tank with Steve McQueen, faced off with Elizabeth Taylor, won an Oscar and whipped up a mean low-fat Caesar dressing.

Whatever Paul Newman held in his hand, a few inches below the bluest eyes this side of Frank Sinatra, it was never nothing.

PHOTOS: PAUL NEWMAN’S FILMS

To a generation of women and their daughters, Paul Newman was the quiet dream. He didn’t make them shriek and faint, just stare and imagine.

When he was a young man in “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,” his Brick Pollitt matched Taylor’s steam heat. A decade later, his “Butch Cassidy” bicycle ride with Katherine Ross to the tune of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” remains one of the great moments of romantic innocence in movie history.

He didn’t aspire to be James Bond and make women melt. More often he steered away from good-guy leading roles toward characters he apparently just found more interesting.

OBITUARY: PAUL NEWMAN DIES AT AGE 83

In his two most successful films, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting,” he let Redford take most of the hunk stuff and spent his time creating rogues who had crafted their own code of living.

Bob Dylan could have been describing both Cassidy and Newman’s Henry Gondorff in “The Sting” when he wrote that “to live outside the law you must be honest.”

NEWMAN’S FIVE BEST ROLES: OUR FILM CRITIC’S CHOICES

It never felt like Newman picked those characters because they’d help sculpt a Paul Newman image. But they did, and one of the reasons men also loved to watch him was that he didn’t flaunt his magnetism. His performances often told us more about what his characters lacked than what they had.

His con man Fast Eddie Felson in “The Hustler” had a cold edge. His title character in “Hud” was downright mean. His lawyer Frank Galvin in “The Verdict” was a desperate drunk. Harry Keach of “Harry and Son,” a script Newman wrote for and about himself, was about a father who felt his son slipping away.

His last major role, John Rooney in the stark 2002 Tom Hanks drama “Road To Perdition,” cast him as a Depression-era crime boss who lived by a code that left the earth stained with blood.

Off-camera, Newman left a different kind of trail. He was a liberal activist who vaulted into the top 20 on former President Richard Nixon‘s enemies list in the late ’60s because of his support for anti-Vietnam war Sen. Eugene McCarthy, and he stayed with progressive causes all his life.

Yet here, too, he took a different fork in the road. Unlike a Streisand or Alec Baldwin, he wasn’t held up as a Hollywood elitist – maybe because he didn’t live in Hollywood, but more likely because he lived in every grocery store in the country, thanks to his ownership of Newman’s Own, a socially conscious food company created with a bottle of salad dressing.

Newman’s Own became much more than a celebrity novelty, probably because it was pretty good. After a few years he started adding other Newman’s Own products, including pasta sauces, lemonade, cookies, coffee, salsa, fruit juice and dog food.

With whimsical pictures of Newman on the labels, they became a standard item in American grocery stores, and by early 2008 the Newman’s Own Web site reported it had donated more than $220 million to charity.

For Newman himself, Newman’s Own had the bizarre incidental effect of pretty much neutralizing anything people might not have liked about his work or his progressive views. When you see someone every day in your refrigerator or on your pantry shelf, whether it’s Tony the Tiger or the Quaker Oats man or Famous Amos, it’s hard not to bond.

That was particularly interesting with Paul Newman because most fans probably couldn’t envision him stopping by the backyard barbecue for a burger. He was a movie star – no matter how emphatically he rejected a movie star life.

Newman and his second wife, Joanne Woodward, were married for 50 years. He had a self-effacing sense of humor. He fled Hollywood as soon as he could and settled in Connecticut, where he founded a program for seriously ill children, The Hole in the Wall Camp.

If he’d wanted the press, it was ready to love him. But he kept it at a distance for much of his career, disinterested in the Hollywood veneer that inevitably would have given him.

When writers would compare him to Marlon Brando or James Dean, who also came out of Lee Strasbourg‘s Actors Studio in the early 1950s and played disaffected young men, he felt they were missing the point of what he really did.

Later he resented the negative stories that surrounded “Fort Apache the Bronx” in 1981. Not by coincidence did the following year’s “Absence of Malice” portray the press, particularly Sally Field’s reporter, as cold and indifferent.

“Absence of Malice,” for which Newman received one of his seven best-actor nominations – he won for “The Color of Money” in 1986 – included one particularly arresting scene in which his pure cold fury filled the screen.

That he could make us laugh in the hockey comedy “Slap Shot” and just as convincingly make us flinch from the force of his raw anger proved he had been right many years before when he decided not to simply become some version of James Bond.

Within a few months in the early 1960s he reprised his Broadway role from Tennessee Williams‘ melancholy “Sweet Bird of Youth,” played the rotten Hud Bannon (“You’re a mean man, Hud”) and then resurfaced as Steve Sherman in the romantic comedy “A New Kind Of Love,” playing opposite his wife.

Many actors want the versatility of Newman and some have the clout to attempt it. He pulled it off. Maybe that’s why, despite “Butch Cassidy,” a lot of fans like him best in “Cool Hand Luke,” laughing as he bobs and weaves around the rules.

Truth is, Paul Newman could make a cool hand out of just about anything.

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October 1, 2008 Posted by | OTHER_CINEMA, Paul Newman, _OTHER | Leave a comment