Paul Newman, A Man For All Seasons (1925-2008)

paul_newman-1.jpgAs the news spread that Paul Newman, one of the most magnetic actors to be gifted to the film industry, had died on Friday Sept 26th, 2008, from cancer at the age of 83, a sense of passing filled the air as if nature had paused to recognize the last embrace of a defining soul that left a long and important footnote on history.

A modest man, he was the first to admit: “The light that you think you emanate is not necessarily the light that other people see. You think of yourself as a shy, retiring whatever it is, and some other people will see you in an entirely different way.”

Newman on film often played the anti-hero, redefining it to contemporary society, impressing it with endearing character by becoming an affectionate rebel with a cause and earning the awe of the audience along the way. His striking good looks, unmistakable blue eyes and raw male sexuality never detracted from his performances but added a unique angst. His role as Brick in the 1958 film adaptation of Tennessee WilliamsCat on A Hot Tin Roof, opposite Elizabeth Taylor, is filled with the energy that only he could have generated by projecting an archetype image of sexually ambiguous anger. This was the part that earned him his first of ten Oscar nominations as his career spanned more than fifty years.

What a career it was. An accomplished race car driver, a tireless philanthropist who created his own brand of salad dressing and donated all proceeds to charity and a fifty year marriage to actress Joanne Woodward who he met in the Broadway stage version of Picnic in the mid fifties. He had also been accepted as a student at the Actors Studio in New York and took lessons with Marlon Brando, James Dean, Geraldine Page and Ms. Woodward.

paul_newman.jpgLife did not come easy to him in his career. Many classified him as a hunk and did not take him seriously as an actor although his early roles on TV provided some landmark performances, it wasn’t until his second lead film role, portraying a disfigured prizefighter in Somebody Up There Likes Me that Hollywood began to take him seriously. His second Oscar nomination came playing Eddie Felson in a brilliant performance as The Hustler. It was this role that finally earned him his only Oscar as Best Actor when Martin Scorsese directed him in a sequel of sorts, The Color Of Money in 1986, opposite Tom Cruise. He also won a career achievement Oscar and the Jean Hersholt humanitarian award. He continued to redefine his career while remaining a sex symbol and distinguished character actor well into his seventies.

He and Joanne lived in Westport, Connecticut, a quiet and private life out of the Hollywood limelight. So much could be said about his legacy that its impossible to articulate all in one article except perhaps to say that he was one of the last of the great cinema actors of the twentieth century who leaves over sixty five films of memorable acting. At least we have these performances to remember a life well lived.

Somebody up there liked him and everyone down here loved him, one of Hollywood’s golden boys. For a full list of his performances, see the links below.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/27/AR2008092701838.html
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000056/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Newman

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