September 27th, 2008

RIP Paul Newman

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:

15 Responses to “RIP Paul Newman”

  1. GeoPal Says:

    Cool Hand Luke. Hands down. The irrepressible man with a smile that lit up the moment and everything contained in it.
    God bless him and comfort his wife and family.

  2. vanderleun Says:

    Well, others in Hollywood currently cracking the barrier are:
    Karl Malden and Mona Greenberg – 69 years (12/18/1938)
    James Garner and Lois Clarke – 52 years (8/17/1956)
    Alan Alda and Arlene Alda – 51 years (3/15/1957)
    Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward – 50 years (1/29/1958)
    Hal Linden and Francis Martin – 50 years (4/13/1958)

    Of course none can compare to:

    Philipose Thomas and wife Sosamma of Kerala, India:
    86 years, 4 months (as of 2005)

  3. vanderleun Says:

    And hey, that’s not sappy music. It made me all misty. Sniff.

  4. s1c Says:

    Loved Newman and have always enjoyed his work and Newmans own has always been a staple in this household because we knew that it would help good causes.

  5. Vince P Says:

    Who is Paul Newman?

  6. Tatyana Says:

    Irresistible – in Cat on the Tin Roof. Don’t remember his roles anywhere else – only his slow smile under that chill gaze.

  7. Gringo Says:

    Unlike most big-time actors, Newman lived away from Hollywood, and stayed married for 50 years. That right there shows that he thought for himself.

    Many Hollywood types proclaim to the world how good they are because they support the right politician. Streisand, George Clooney and various PSF (pendejos sin fronteras) who have made the pilgrimage to Hugoslavia come to mind.

    By contrast, Newman simply did good, such as donations from profits of his Newman’s Own food products, and his sponsorship of the Hole in the Wall Gang camps.

    That Newman might have voted for different Presidential candidates than I in no way diminishes the esteem he has merited.

  8. Sissy Willis Says:

    He never turned ME on. Maybe it was those rumors of homosexuality that are practically nowhere to be found on the internet. No problem with his and his wife’s finding an acceptable accommodation. but he always struck me as totally all about me.

  9. Jimmy J. Says:

    I never met Paul, but had the delightful experience of riding from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles sitting next to Joanne in a B-727 first class seat. I was deadheading home from a flight to Portland. She was going back to LA after visiting Paul on the location of the movie “Once a Great Notion.” It starred Henry Fonda, Newman, and Richard Jaeckal as a logging family struggling to make a go of it in the Pacific Northwest.

    After that experience I knew why Newman was attracted to his wife. She was a very down to earth person with great curiosity about everything. By the time we had landed in LA she had extracted many of the details of what an airline pilot does and how I felt about my job. I, in turn, had learned a bit about what was going on with the filming of the movie. (Lots of cold water dunkings and back breaking use of axes and saws as I recall.) Her love for Paul was readily apparent when she talked about him.

    He will be missed. Not only because he was a great actor, but because he was a good husband, father, and person. I’m sure Joanne Woodward and their children will miss him very much.

  10. Mitsu Says:

    Newman was quite a guy, an excellent actor. And I really love his spaghetti sauce (seriously).

  11. Nolanimrod Says:

    F.Y.I.When he was in Tucson, I think shooting “Hombre,” he played handball with my dad and came to the house once. My dad claimed to be 5’8″ and Newman was the same or a little taller.

  12. dane Says:

    One of my favorite Newman movies was “The Drowning Pool” – probably because I was/am a big Ross McDonald fan. Anyway – Joanne Woodward co-starred with him in that one. I remember him being asked once in an interview how he avoided the temptation of all the women on the sets, etc. He replied, “Why would you have a hamburger out when you have steak at home?”

    He had a lesser known movie – “Absence of Malice” that was pretty good – but didn’t stretch him. I will still watch “The Verdict” when it come on AMC or such. Of course Jack Warden was always a favorite as well.

  13. Dan Says:

    I saw Paul Newman face to face on the Canadian Pacific train platform in Calgary, Alberta in the summer of 1975 where he was meeting Joanne Woodward and their daughters. They had come out on the train and my wife had spotted them earlier in the trip in the dining car. I can attest that he had the bluest eyes I had ever seen and he was exactly my height as he walked past me: 5 feet 6 inches.

  14. Tater Says:

    Never cared much for Newman due to his politics. But I always bought his Newman’s Own products because they were good and the profits went to a good cause. He was an outstanding actor. All in all doubt if we’d be friends, but he was indeed a good and decent human.

    Later

  15. movie fan Says:

    it’s hard not to admire Paul Newman for putting his money to work in such productive ways, such as his Newman’s Own line–high quality stuff and the proceeds go to good causes… very smart.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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