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September 27, 2008

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bill

There was, for my money, no better or more interesting actor working in the 1950s and 60s than Paul Newman, and there were really very few who matched him in the 70s and 80s. As beloved as he was, I'll always think his talent was underrated. And yes, he was incredibly cool. RIP.

bill

Oh, and favorite moments...two from "Hombre": "You ever been hungry? And I mean really hungry, not just ready for dinner." And, "You go ask her if she'd eat dog now."

Jason

My father was a big Paul Newman fan, so I grew up watching a lot of his films, particularly Hud, The Hustler and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (I even recall my father grimacing while watching Quintet). The one we watched above all others was Slap Shot (not Newman's best film, but being Canadian and rabid hockey fans, we adore it.) and even today I relish Newman's fantastic comic performance as Reggie Dunlop, the player/coach for the woefully misbegotten Charlestown Chiefs.

I'll continue to remember Newman by watching his many great films and treasuring his performances. The world has lost a great artist and tireless philanthropist. Rest easy, Mr. Newman.

Jeff B.

It was the mid-90s, I was in my late teens, and all I cared about movie-wise was Tarantino and Jim Carrey.

Then one day my mom was about to watch Nobody's Fool, so I joined her and soon realized there was more to movies than bloodshed and goofy faces.

Thank you Mr. Newman.

Alison

While everyone takes time to reflect on his wonderful performances in films like Hud and The Hustler, let's also remember the sheer delight of watching Paul Newman swing on a chandelier in the underappreciated Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys.

Ryland Walker Knight

I dig the Arnold Palmer mix, too. And the popcorn. The Newman O's... not so much. But that's just cuz I'm mostly into chocolate chip and/or peanut butter cookies if I'm going that route.

Oh, and, yea: Gorgeous, cool, smart, yes yes yes. Surprisingly not sad. Just, kinda, vibing on the fact that he did a lot and, it's quite clear, lead a full life. I should go play basketball while the sun is shining.

Brian

I'll always love Butch Cassidy, The Hustler, The Sting, Harper, Absence of Malice (his performance more than the movie), The Verdict, and his over-the-top performance in The Hudsucker Proxy. But I really want to second Jeff B.'s rave about Nobody's Fool. He's so effortless in that film-- cool, funny, flawed. Just a really solid center to the movie. And he elevates everyone's game-- Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith have never been better. The whole movie just exudes atmosphere and earthy life, and I think that's in large part due to Newman's performance.

Aaron Aradillas

HDNet Movies has been showing The Color of Money quite a bit recently. I believe it is ready for re-consideration.

At the time of its release it was probably seen more as the Tom-Cruise-follow-up-to-Top-Gun than a Paul Newman movie--or a Scorsese movie. (It was Scoesese's biggest money-maker until Cape Fear.)

Critics liked Newman's performance, but otherwise seemed to dismiss it as a lightweight "sequel" directed by a filmmaker who should be doing more "personal" movies.

Like Coppola with Peggy Sue Got Married (which was released around the same time), Scorsese used Color of Money to explore the world of a different type of hustling. Instead of booze or cigarettes or shrimp and lobsters, its pool. (Crusie's Vincent is the kind of reckless kid who would enter one of the pool halls in Mean Streets and not think twice about it.)

At the center of the movie is Newman's marvelous continuation of his Fast Eddie Felson performance. It's a seamelss performance, filled with humor, pride, and regret. The Color of Money is the story of Fast Eddie finally coming to terms with the fact that he's a hustler. The "legit' world of whiskey has made it easy for him to think he is repectable. He isn't. He's likable but far from admirable. Fast Eddie's corrupting of the innocent Vincent allows him to see just how much of a bad influence he has on people.

The brilliance of Newman's performance is that he never articulates any of this. Newman's facial expressions throughout the movie are truly special. The scene wehre he is humiliated by the hulking Forrest Whiatkeer (portraying a new breed of hustler) gets its power from Newman accepting defeat and realizing he must continue on his own.

And Scorsese's direction is simply fun to watch. Not just the "Werewolves of London" sequence, but little things like the crack of the balls when they break. And the movie's final shot (a freeze-frame that got a lot flack at the time) is a beaut.

Along wiht Bringing Out the Dead, The Color of Moeny is Scorsese's most underrated film.

Cadavra

My one-and-only encounter with him was several years back in New York, at a revival of THE SUNSHINE BOYS with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman at the former's National Actors' Theatre. During intermission, I wandered outside and saw him and Ms. Woodward leaning against a poster case, enjoying the evening air. Feeling ballsy, I went up to him and said, "Y'know, ten years from now, you and Redford could do this show." He fixed me with those blue eyes and growled, "Hell, we could do it now." I laughed and, having had my moment with him, went back inside. What an amazing fellow.

Krauthammer

Paul Newman is one of the only actors who can singehandedly make a movie for me. For example, although I'm sure many will disagree, I don't think Cool Hand Luke would be remembered at all if not for Newman's trancendent performance. He was a real standup guy too. Damn.

bill

Man, I need to watch "The Color of Money" and "Nobody's Fool" again. And Aaron, not to get too far off topic, but I agree with: "Bringing Out the Dead" is very underrated.

Krauthammer, it's interesting to wonder what a movie like "Cool Hand Luke" would be without Newman, whether or not it would stand up nearly as well...maybe it wouldn't, but the thing about that film is that the whole thing is dependent, consciously so, on having as strong a lead performance as possible. There could be no half-way with the performance of Luke. And damned if they didn't get just what they needed.

Bernadette61

Yes, Paul Newman was a great actor and a good person. My favorite Paul Newman movie is Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Favorite Paul Newman line in that movie..."What are ya crazy!? The fall will probably kill ya!"

D Cairns

Cool Hand Luke occupies a special place in my heart. I was a little kid and I saw it on TV, repeatedly. Before I saw it, I don't think I knew the hero could (spoiler alert!) die.
Stuart Rosenberg is a possibly underrated director (The Laughing Policeman is a terrific 70s copshow) and he does a terrific job with Luke.

Glenn Kenny

@D. Cairns: Yes, Rosenberg was, for a brief period, a very interesting director. He, Irvin Kershner, and Jerry Schatzberg were, in the late-60s-early-70s, the great Jewish post-neo-realists of Hollywood.

I agree with the sentiment inferred by Krauthammer and others—any movie with Newman in it was better becaused Newman was in it.

An obvious favorite moment: "You can't SWIM?...Hell, the fall'l probably kill us!" At least that's how I remember it. The IMDB says different. I'll look at the film itself later.

My mom adored him, and is disconsolate. Today I sent her the recent Warner box set, which has a fascinating range of his work—"Left Handed Gun," the radical Western by Arthur Penn, "The Young Philadelphians," one of his slickest early Hollywood picture, "Somebody Up There Likes Me," in which he subverts his natural beauty and does pug-ugly Rocky Marciano proud, "Harper" and "The Drowning Pool," two very good P.I. pictures, the latter with a nymphet-ish Melanie Griffith, presaging the underrated "Twilight" with its coltish Resse Witherspoon, and "Pocket Money," like "Pool" another Rosenberg picture, costarring Lee Marvin from a script by Terrence Malick. Put all those, and other names, together, and you get an idea of what a committed and vital player he was in the cinema as a whole.

I was in the same room with him once, at a benefit for the Williamstown Theater, to which he was deeply committed. I remember him hanging out with Joanne Woodward at the then-Kit-Kat-Club in Times Square, Heineken bottle in hand, as unpretentious and good-humored as can be. Entirely lovable, entirely admirable.

Aaron Aradillas

Any thoughts on my reading of The Color of Money, GK?

jeer9

While "Cool Hand Luke" remains one of my favorite films, and his performance of the "Plastic Jesus" song especially moving, Bill's comment on "Hombre" reminds me of a couple of other memorable lines - to the ruthless Richard Boone who has just arrogantly threatened Newman's character without fully thinking through the consequences of his ultimatum: "Hey, I got another question for ya. How ya gonna get down that hill?" And he was a great liberal as well. RIP.

Glenn Kenny

Aaron:
I like "Color of Money" a lot as well, for the reasons you cite, and also because it happens to be a great movie about star iconography beyond that.

Scorsese's worda about Newman over at CNN are typically noteworthy:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/Movies/09/27/paul.newman.dead/index.html#cnnSTCOther1

not least because of his typically idiosyncratic citing of "From the Terrace."

Ernesto Diezmartinez

The Greates. My moment (and sorry for that): Newman hitting Charlotte Rampling in The Verdict. And then, the phone is ringing, ringing and ringing...

My mom is disconsolate. Me too.

Tony Dayoub

Nobody's mentioned "Hud"? Probably the most loathsome character he ever played. Newman draws you in with his typical charm and good-looks, and you keep waiting for Hud to do something to redeem himself, except, he never does. In fact, by the end of the movie, after he forces himself on Patricia Neal, he's even more despicable than at the beginning.

Story by Larry McMurtry, directed by Martin Ritt, and B&W cinematography by the incomparable James Wong Howe, with one of Newman's biggest acting stretches in his career. "Hud" is my favorite.

@Glenn,
Lew Harper being one of my favorite characters, I always wondered why the PI in "Twilight" wasn't Harper. Seems like it should have been, no?

zolaaar

Thank you. RIP

Claire K.

I've seen Newman's movies all out of order, and it actually wasn't until I finally saw Hud that I realized why exactly he should be required viewing for every actor. Until then, in everything I'd seen him do, his sort of easy, languid charm had just risen off of him, and I, thinking of him as simply a Movie Star and not necessarily as terrific actor (because I knew pretty much nothing about anything), assumed that that was present in all of his performances, in the same way that every Julia Roberts performance has a little bit of quivering chin and a lot of million-dollar smile. But in Hud, he was so fully committed to being so thoroughly unlikeable and unsympathetic, to the exclusion of any of the sparkle I'd thought of as part of his standard bag of tricks, that I finally clued in to what a genius he was at putting together a character. All this perceptiveness and intelligence had totally gone over my head, just because everything he did seemed so natural--and it WAS natural, I think, it's just that it was never cheap, or lazy, or imprecise, or self-serving, like so much "natural" acting can be. It's amazing that someone as beautiful and gifted as Paul Newman never allowed himself a moment of vanity onscreen. I hope that, for actors at least, this part of his enormous legacy is always remembered.

Joel

I've always loved The Long Hot Summer, with the ever-underrated Martin Ritt making Faulkner's Snopses funny. The Left-Handed Gun is also a weird yet underseen classic. Hud may be my favorite, but the movies that I want to watch now are from Newman's cranky old man phase, such as The Verdict, Hudsucker, and Nobody's Fool. He aged much better than any of his contemporaries, and, even though he was picky about his roles, he put in great performances until the very end.

Mary Kay

Paul Newman was a class act. He always created interesting and three dimensional characters on-screen, even when he transcended from being a working actor to become a movie star. And in real life he was never about the bling. Paul Newman seemed like a guy who would be a great dinner companion and able to talk about things regular people do -- you know, like books, movies, music, helping people, the joys of living, not living large, living well. Off-screen he seemed to be a regular guy, not just a good-looking actor pretending to be a regular guy as he waves to us from his chateau in France or his mansion in LA. So pleased we had him around for 83 years, but I can't help feeling a bit greedy and wishing he had more time to make more movies and be more interesting characters. What an amazing film legacy. It's all good. Sure sure.

MovieMan0283

Like everyone, I love the movies and love the lemonade. I never got to meet Newman in person, but my mother did - briefly - in the early 70s when he stumped for a political candidate at her school. Though she was in college at the time, she found herself throwing snowballs at him (I guess he had that effect on people). I believe she hit him, but he took it good-naturedly, as he always did.

Rob D

Newman was the standard for me in the 60`s and 70`s. I found the Redford as sidekick movies to be fun filled but inconsequential, popcorn fare. Nothng wrong with that..they had a lot of good lines and many great character actors to boot. The films that have stayed with me are "Hud", "The Hustler", "Nobody`s Fool" (glad to see others list it as well!!) "Harper" and "The Drowning Pool"...heck..I guess I liked a lot of his work, admired his ability to keep his distance from the fame machine, and his enduring marriage with the very talented actress Joanne Woodward (I miss her contributions to the film world too)

Did anyone see the last film he did...blanking on the name..errr.."Road To Perdition" with Tom Hanks? Something in the way he talked about the film on the talk show "Charlie Rose" made me not want to see it. It seemed like he was uncomfortable with the role or something..I will probably want to see it now that he is gone.

I can't think of another actor who so often rewarded your faith in him. HIs name on the marquee had me looking for the ducats necessary to enter the theater.

Robert

It was through my father's love of films that I was first introduced to the work of Paul Newman. And although it can't really compete with the quality of the many titles listed above, I would like mention the wonderfully loopy 1964 picture "What a Way to Go" directed by J. Lee Thompson. This was the first time I remember seeing Mr. Newman and have enjoyed his work ever since. Rest in peace.

tom carson

I honestly wish I understood the love for Cool Hand Luke, since I think it's the definition of A Movie No One Would Give A Crap About If Paul Newman Weren't In It. But I'm glad, GK, that your first screen grab is from Exodus, one of my favorites of all his performances. Newman famously hated the movie himself, I'm guessing because Preminger made him play the part as a hardnose without any likable moments. But he's terrific in it.

Herman Scobie

I'm lucky enough to have seen Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Long, Hot Summer, and The Left-Handed Gun when they were new, thereby discovering Newman along with the rest of the world. In the years between these films and Hud, I found out that these images up there on the screen were art and that Newman was central to the greatness of the art form. As my first movie star and one who helped me to appreciate the medium, he will be missed more than any celebrity who has died in my lifetime.

rockandroller

When I got the news I was working at my PT job (retail) and was in the stockroom looking for something for a customer, checked my PDA and there was the CNN breaking news alert. I was agog and standing with the PDA in my hand and my mouth open when a co-worker happened to come into the stock room. This woman is elderly, great- grandmother age, I am in my late 30s. She's like, "what's wrong?" and I'm like, "Paul Newman died!" "Oh my God!" she said. We both wandered out of the stock room in shock, she saying she didn't know he was even sick and me saying I knew he had been, it was just really sad. One of our other co-workers was waiting on a customer nearby and stopped and looked at us because we both looked so upset and she's like, "Is everything ok?" and I'm like "Paul Newman died!" and the (female) customer had this sharp intake of breath and another lady nearby was like, "Oh no!" The third co-worker, who is in her 50s, immediately said how she always fantasized about having him for a husband and I said so did I, and the great-grandmother said so did I, and the customer said me too and we all laughed. I was so sad. As a surprise, mr. rockandroller rented the Sting for us that night, which is always great no matter how many times you've seen it, and I couldn't help but bawl when it was over.

All women wanted to date him, all guys wanted to be his friend. Me and all the other actors I know had him near or at the top of his list of people we'd want to work with. He really had a very unique and special quality that is so hard to find in film actors. Easygoing charm, believability, coolness without pretense, and he was obviously a very wonderful person in his private life as well, staying married to the same woman for so many years and with all his philanthropic and charity work through Newman's Own, and yet still found time for his race car passion. Every year at the Cleveland Grand Prix (I am a race fan) when he would have a driver in and would come to support the team, I was always just in awe being so close to someone so amazing. I wish I could have met him, just once.

rockandroller

Not sure why my Newman comments were deleted? Did I say something wrong?

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