. Paul Newman:
Movie legend Paul Newman dies, 83.
Oscar-winning film legend Paul Newman has died of cancer at the age of
Answers - Born
in Cleveland, Ohio, Paul Newman (1925-2008) was one of the most
distinguished twentieth-century American actors. Drama, however, was not
Newman's sole passion; he was a professional race car driver, owned a
food business that donates all proceeds to charity, and was an outspoken
proponent of various liberal causes.
Paul Newman has been described as the
quintessential American on-screen male. His sometimes gruff, sometimes
duplicitous, nearly always captivating characterizations have earned him
a place in the pantheon of celebrated and beloved American film stars.
In a 1994 assessment of Newman's career, Newsweek writer David Ansen
mused that "the great mystery of his stardom is how he has managed to
play so many heels-driven, ambitious, solipsistic men-that the audience
falls in love with."
Paul Leonard Newman was born to Arthur and Theresa Newman in Cleveland,
Ohio, on January 26, 1925. He was raised in Shaker Heights, a well-to-do
suburb, where the family enjoyed a comfortable middle-class lifestyle.
His father was a partner in a sporting goods store which Newman was
expected to eventually take over. As a child, however, Newman was far
more interested in extracurricular activities than in achieving good
grades and acquiring a head for business. He loved sports and dreamed of
becoming a professional athlete. Around this time, he began acting. At
the age of ten, he won the lead role in a production of St. George and
the Dragon at the Cleveland Playhouse. Still, to Newman his flaws were
numerous: "When I was a kid, I was not a good scholar, and I really
wanted to be one, " Newman once said to Esquire. "I was not a good
athlete, and I really wanted to be one; I was not a good
conversationalist, and to this day I have difficulty talking."
An injury ended Newman's dream of a sports career. When he graduated
from high school in 1943, in the midst of World War II, he enlisted in
the U.S. Naval Reserve. Newman had hoped for the heroic role of a
fighter pilot, but this dream also disappeared when it was determined
that he was slightly colorblind. Newman instead served as a radioman in
the South Pacific for three years. After his discharge, he returned to
Ohio and enrolled at Kenyon College on the G.I. Bill, which provided
tuition assistance to returning veterans. Once more, Newman displayed a
proclivity for everything but academics, running a lucrative beer and
laundry business that was a hit with Kenyon students. He also began to
contemplate a career on the stage at this point and devoted much of his
energy to roles in Kenyon's drama department productions.
Newman and Joanne Woodward)
Newman graduated in 1949 and joined a summer stock company in Wisconsin,
then an Illinois repertory theater. He also married fellow actress,
Jacqueline Witte, that same year; the couple would have three children.
When Newman's father passed away, he returned to the Cleveland area to
take over the sporting goods store. It was a life and career path to
which he was deeply averse. Fortunately for him, the store was sold and
he took his wife and growing family to New Haven, Connecticut, where he
was accepted at the prestigious Yale School of Drama.
At Yale, Newman honed his stage skills and sold encyclopedias on the
side for cash. His talents landed him a place with the acclaimed New
York drama workshop, the Actors Studio, where he studied with such
luminaries of the craft as Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan in the early
1950s. Soon Newman found work in television plays, then a fresh and
innovative union of the two arts that was attracting stellar writers,
directors, and performers. His success in this medium led to Broadway
work, and, in 1953, he was cast as the understudy for the lead in the
play Picnic. Hungry for a chance to prove himself, Newman asked the
director if he could play the part on the road, to which the director,
Joshua Logan, refused. Newman, Logan said, did not possess the sexual
charisma required for the character.
Crushed, Newman adopted a new attitude. He began working out, but more
importantly, he began observing others and their behavior. It was also
around this time that he met actress Joanne Woodward, and the chemistry
between the two dissolved Newman's first marriage. Film seemed the next
logical career move, but he was wary. He finally accepted the lead in
the 1955 biblical drama The Silver Chalice. It was a disastrous move and
almost ended his acting career in one fell swoop. Newman played a Greek
slave who hammered the cup from which Jesus and the apostles allegedly
drank at the Last Supper. "That I survived that picture is a testament
to something, " Newman declared in an interview with New York writer
Lynn Hirschberg. He wore a short toga through most of it. When a network
bought The Silver Chalice and planned to broadcast it, Newman bought
newspaper advertisements urging people not to watch.
Newman returned to New York and devoted his energies to more gratifying
stage work. He was next cast alongside James Dean in a teleplay, but
when Dean died in a car crash in September of 1955, Newman was asked to
take the lead. He hesitated, but his role in the adaptation of a story
by Ernest Hemingway revived his reputation and his faith in his
abilities. Hollywood beckoned again, but this time with an offer to play
the boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me. The 1957 hit
made the actor into an overnight sensation, and Warner Brothers signed
Newman to seven-year contract.
Newman and Liz Taylor en "The cat...")
Newman's next film, The Long Hot Summer, also starred his new wife,
Woodward, in the tale of small town Southern politics and a malevolent
drifter. The role would come to typify the characterization in which the
tougher, now battle-scarred actor would excel and build his career upon.
Other films included Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which was also released in
1958 and earned him his first Academy Award (Oscar) nomination, and
another biblical drama, Exodus. Still, Newman was unhappy with the
Hollywood system and managed to be released from his contract through
the help of his savvy agent. Now an independent actor not influenced by
studio whims, he was able to take a role that offered a well-written
dramatic challenge: the smooth talking pool shark Fast Eddie Felson in
The Hustler. The 1961 role brought Newman his second Academy Award
Similar roles followed, with similar results. For the 1963 drama Hud and
the mournful prison picture Cool Hand Luke, one of 1967's biggest
box-office successes, Newman again won nominations, but did not win the
Oscar in either instance. Subsequent roles in period pieces, such as
1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and 1973's The Sting, again
teamed him with Robert Redford and did phenomenally well. Later in the
decade, Newman's career took a slight downturn. His only admirable
portrayal came as a vicious minor league hockey coach in the 1977 cult
classic Slap Shot.
Personal tragedy also visited Newman. In 1978, his son from his first
marriage, Scott, died of a drug and alcohol overdose. Newman would later
fund a drug rehabilitation facility in Los Angeles in honor of his son.
The veteran actor also began to take an active role in other issues of
personal significance to him, most notably liberal politics. Though he
had always been politically active, by marching in civil rights protests
and publicly supporting Democratic presidential campaigns, Newman grew
more outspoken. President Jimmy Carter appointed him as his delegate to
nuclear disarmament talks at the United Nations, and Newman once took on
fellow actor and noted Republican Charlton Heston in a television
In 1995, Newman bought a controlling interest in The Nation, a liberal
political journal, and even began writing for it occasionally. One essay
spoke out against a prominent United States senator who had supported
dictatorial regimes in Latin America, for example. Newman is also on the
board of Cease Fire, a gun control group funded by prominent celebrities.
He also sponsors an annual free speech award by the writers'
organization PEN. "Your sense of yourself comes from what you're doing
today, not what you did yesterday, " Newman told Hirschberg in the New
Newman continued to command respect with his film roles as well,
especially with the 1981 drama Absence of Malice, for which he earned
his fifth Oscar nomination. The role of a wretched alcoholic lawyer in
1982's The Verdict landed him his sixth. His Oscar losing streak became
a joke among Newman and his circle of family and friends. "I had this
wonderful scenario worked out in my head that somehow I would never win,
" Newman confessed to Hirschberg, "and then, finally, in a terrible
state of physical disrepair, I'd be nominated and I'd win and I'd be
carried up by two paramedics on a stretcher…." When he was nominated for
reprising his "Fast Eddie" role in the sequel to The Hustler, the 1986
Tom Cruise movie The Color of Money, he didn't even travel to Los
Angeles for the ceremony. This time, he won.
Newman remains grounded on the East Coast, far away from the celebrity
glamour of Hollywood. "Hollywood breeds insecurity, " Newman told New
York's Hirschberg. "When I was a young actor, I delighted in the dailies,
" referring to the unedited footage from the a movie shoot. "I used to
bathe in the idea of watching that image on the screen. I'm uneasy about
it now. I'm afraid I will be so critical that I will be immobilized for
the next day's shooting." He and Woodward, with whom he has three
daughters, live in a 200-year-old farmhouse in Connecticut and also keep
a home on New York's Upper East Side. The actor is well-known
personality on the automobile racing circuit, and owns an Indy car
competitor with a partner. He is also a famed prankster feared by his
film set colleagues. He once had a Porsche demolished, wrapped, and
sneaked into Robert Redford's house. Film director Robert Altman was
paid back for exploding nine feet of popcorn in Newman's dressing room
on a film set with a series of attacks that included 200 live chickens
installed in Altman's personal trailer.
Perhaps Newman's proudest achievement, however, is the food company he
launched in the 1980s with his friend A. E. Hotchner, a writer. "Newman's
Own" began with their bottling of a vinaigrette they concocted that had
been a hit with friends. "Giving the profits away was a philosophy that
evolved with the company, " Newman told Pam Janis for USA Weekend,
noting that he was strongly urged by all involved to lend his name and
visage to the label. "With that, it would be tacky not to give the money
away." Over the next decade, Newman's Own expanded to over 40 different
products, including salsa, lemonade, and the prank inducing popcorn. His
daughter, Nell, and her devotion to organic foods helped launch a second
line. All proceeds are donated to charitable organizations. By 1997
Newman's Own had given more than $80 million away to projects chosen by
the actor and his wife, such as a school for children of migrant
laborers and AIDS research.
Newman continued to choose outstanding film roles when he did enter into
the Hollywood sphere. One such effort was the critically acclaimed 1994
drama Nobody's Fool. His character, wrote Ansen in Newsweek, "is a
classic Newman type, the older relative of all the intransigent
outsiders he played in the '50s and '60s." Ansen likened Newman's
tragicomic Sully to the "rebellious rakes who cut themselves off from
women, from family, from community to pursue their private dreams and
demons…. Sully's selfish, self-involved and a loser. He's also, like all
Newman antiheroes, enormously likeable." Newman admitted that Nobody's
Fool and his role as Sully, who learns to connect when he establishes a
shaky relationship with his grandson, tapped into some emotional
defenses that were not altogether unfamiliar to him. "An actor who's
successful develops a certain shield to protect that part of his life
which isn't up for public examination, " he told Bonnie Churchill in the
Christian Science Monitor. "It bleeds over into your private life."
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 14, Gale, 1996.
Newsmakers, 1995 Cumulation, Gale, 1995.
Christian Science Monitor, December 27, 1994, p. 14; March 5, 1996, p.
Good Housekeeping, May 1995, p. 147.
Newsweek, December 19, 1994, pp. 56-62.
New York, December 12, 1994, pp. 36-45.
Sunday Times (London), June 22, 1997.
USA Weekend, October 17-19, 1997.
Wall Street Journal, November 20, 1997, p. B1.