What a guy.
The news that actor Paul Newman has died at 83 was not unexpected, since his cancer had been announced a while back. But it’s an occasion—especially for us females of a certain age—to sigh and remember just how incredibly sexy he was.
Yeah, he was a liberal. Big deal. He also collected a lot of money for worthy charities, and remained married to his wife (granted, his second wife, having left his first for her) for fifty years. That’s an achievement for anyone, but for a Hollywood star of Newman’s magnitude it’s nearly unheard-of.
I first saw Newman on my black-and-white TV in either “The Long Hot Summer” or maybe “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.” Note the repetition of a single telling word in the titles: hot. Hot, hot, hot.
Newman sizzled, or rather it was a slow underground burn. Who knew that he was only 5’6″ or 5’7″ or whatever he really was (and who cared, anyway; he was certainly tall enough)?
The eyes had it. I saw their beauty even in black-and-white, but it took color films such as “Cool Hand Luke” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” to introduce me to the full experience of their cool/hot intensity. I can only imagine what the pleasure was like in person; I was envious of Joanne Woodward for a real long time.
Newman was memorable in “The Hustler,” which I saw in a movie theater when it came out in 1961. But that was a dark film in more ways than one (it was made in black-and-white). I don’t really have a favorite Newman film; a lot of his work was in relatively lightweight stuff. But if I had to choose it would be those moments in so many movies when his face and eyes lit up with a smile that expressed exuberant playfulness and a sense that he never took himself all that seriously.
You Tube obliges with a host of clips from his films. But I thought the following pastiche with his wife best highlights that spark I’m talking about. And you can see how much she adored him, too (ignore the too-sappy music if you can, but please take a moment to savor the wattage at 2:13):
And this one has a lot of nifty stills, showing the power of that smile and that gaze. Newman aged awfully well. If his later photos aren’t quite as socko as his earlier ones, it’s only because his earlier ones set a nearly impossible standard: