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Paul Newman - Blue Eyes and Talent
A famous acting coach once said that Paul Newman could have become as great an actor as Marlon Brando if he were not so handsome. The man was uniquely talented and maybe too good looking to a fault. Those blue eyes captivated the hearts of many a young and old woman and probably a few men.
Paul was born on January 26, 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio. His dad was a successful sporting goods store owner which Paul would help run in his youth. After a three year stint in the U.S. Navy, he enrolled in Kenyon College. After graduation, he spent one year at Yale in the drama department and followed that with a trip to the New York Actors Studio which was founded by Elia Kazan and several other pioneers to teach the new method acting. In 1951, Lee Strasberg eventually took over and future stars that came through the doors included Marlon Brando, James Dean, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Joanne Woodward, Jack Nicholson, Steve McQueen, Robert De Niro and Marilyn Monroe.
His first film, The Silver Chalice in 1954 was the film he would always hate and even in his senior years was still making fun of it. He made up for it in his next film, Somebody Up There Likes Me in 1956, the true-life story of boxer, Rocky Graziano. The role was first given to James Dean who died in an auto crash before filming began. Newman won praise for his performance from the critics and thus began a brilliant and long career.
Paul had met Joanne Woodward in Actor's Studio in New York. In 1958, the two did their first of many films together, The Long, Hot Summer and discovered they were in love. Paul had married at age 24 and with his then wife, Jackie Witte had three children. They divorced in 1958 and Paul and Joanne married one day later on January 29, 1958, a marriage that would also produce three children and would endure for 50 years until Paul's death.
That same year, Paul teamed with his counterpart in the beauty department, Elizabeth Taylor in Tennessee William's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This would define the raw sexuality of Newman alongside one of the screen's finest actresses and love goddesses. Paul gave a tremendous performance as did all cast members, but when I think of Cat, I fondly remember one of the truly great performances in screen history by Burl Ives as Big Daddy. I am very disturbed that the Academy did not even nominate him for that role. To me, this is one of the biggest mistakes in Academy history. However, they did nominate him that very same year for his role in The Big Country which earned him a very well deserved Oscar.
Newman teamed up once again with new wife, Joanne Woodward in one of my very favorite films, From the Terrace in 1960. Joanne was the unfaithful wife to Paul in this film and eventually drove him into the arms of another woman. If you love romantic films without nudity, this one hits home.
He goes from the false love of beauty, lust and intrigue with current wife Joanne to the honest and warm love of a woman of morals and family values played beautifully by Ina Balin. Her only guilt came in falling prey to the love of Newman while he was married. She simply could not stand by and watch his wife destroy him.
The sixties were great film years for Newman. He played Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler, Chance Wayne in Sweet Bird of Youth, Hud Bannon in Hud, Lew Harper in Harper, John Russell in Hombre, Butch in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and in one of my top ten favorite films all-time, Luke in Cool Hand Luke. I said in an earlier article about Steve McQueen that when you think of cool, you think of McQueen and not Paul Newman. Well, here is the exception. Paul is very cool in this film about a misguided young man on a prison farm who wants to be left alone and hates authority. He pays dearly for it, but in the midst of it all gains the respect of fellow inmates for his "Cool" approach to everything.
With a film career that lasted over 50 years, Paul was nominated for an Academy Award 10 times as Best Actor in a Leading Role winning once for his repeat performance as Fast Eddie in 1986's The Color of Money. He also received an Honorary Oscar and another Oscar for the Humanitarian Award.
The true love of Newman's life was auto racing. He was both a driver and racing team owner and did very well in both catagories. Along the way, he developed Newman's Own food company which has earned over a hundred million dollars and has all been given to charity. He also founded The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in 1988 for kids with cancer and other serious illnesses. All services are free.
A true giant among men, Paul Newman died of lung cancer on September 26, 2008 in Westport, Connecticut.
One more thing I like about Paul; like me, he was a golfer. Pretty nice swing! Way to keep your head down, Newman.