There was a time—and a fairly long one—when he was the most beautiful man in film. And he didn't make a big deal of it. Seemed rather to relish passing that mantle on to Redford. After which he was only, of course, the coolest guy in the room—always.
Consider this an open thread—your favorite Newman moments, recollections, and even raves about his lemonade (which is truly excellent)—if you will.
UPDATE: Joseph Failla chimes in, via e-mail, as is his wont:
"HOMBRE means man! Paul Newman is HOMBRE!" So proclaimed the copy on the movie's poster.
The first Paul Newman film I remember seeing theatrically was COOL HAND LUKE, at the time I was too young to know what he was all about. But he was one of the first movie stars I came to recognize and watching that film helped me understand just how important an individual's talent, appeal and charisma was to a single film's success. CHL boasts a tremendous cast of supporting players, solid direction and enough of an outcry for social reform to fill a dozen other movies. Above it all was Newman himself, holding everything together, seemingly on his own. What I didn't realize is, I was watching an actor of the caliber of Dean, Brando and Clift, being sold as a matinee idol.
My favorite Newman role is still probably Fast Eddie Felson in THE HUSTLER, and the film continues to amaze me with his range of emotion everytime I see it. Alot of people knocked the follow up THE COLOR OF MONEY, 20 years later. But Newman shows it was well worth revisiting the same character at another point in life. As good as he is here, I still think his Oscar win should have gone to his work in THE VERDICT a few years before. It's a truly searing portrait of a man with little left to lose.
Coincidentially, I happened to view SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME recently, a film I had seen numerous times years ago but not since RAGING BULL came along. And it struck me how one film compliments the other. BULL digs deeper but certainly SOMEBODY must have seemed like cutting realisim at the time. Today it plays more like a fairy tale in the ROCKY mold. In fact Newman's Graziano is even more disarming than Stallone's Balboa once you get past his troubled childhood scenes. Since SOMEBODY was originally a James Dean project, I've often wondered what path Newman's career would have taken if not for Dean's demise (he would also take on Dean's proposed role as Billy the Kid in THE LEFT-HANDED GUN)?
I've vivid memories of seeing the kinescope of the 50's television drama BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY, with Newman in the role Michael Moriarty would later essay in the film version. His reading of the closing line, "From here on, I rag nobody." is something that has stayed with me.
Have you seen THE SILVER CHALICE? It's truly bizarre, as Scorsese says, the set design is more like ancient sci-fi, much like SATYRICON. I can understand Newman's contempt for appearing in it, but his most embarassing moments would come years later in not one but two films for Irwin Allen.
For all the weight of his dramatic work, it's worth noting his adeptness for comedy (sometimes pretty broad) in RALLY 'ROUND THE FLAG BOYS!, A NEW KIND OF LOVE, WHAT A WAY TO GO! and the most amusing (in a sitcom sort of way), THE SECRET WAR OF HARRY FRIGG. Silly stuff but Newman carries them off with much magnetism.
His work in the 60's is an almost unbroken series of films which are immediately recognized as being quintessential Newman (HUSTLER, HUD, HARPER, HOMBRE, COOL HAND LUKE, BUTCH CASSIDY) but I'm also taken with much of his 70's output. Films like LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN, MACKINTOSH MAN, DROWNING POOL, BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS and SLAP SHOT are consistantly eccentric, off beat and entertaining takes on familiar genres. He said SLAP SHOT was his own favorite film because the character he played was most like himself. For some reason, it took me a long time to catch up with his raucous hockey comedy and I'm sorry it did, because it's one of his most enjoyably satisfying.
I have to see more of his directorial projects to properly assess his powers, but I recall his Oregon logging family drama, SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION (which he also stars opposite Henry Fonda and Lee Remick) as being a little less than the sum of it's parts. However his handling of the scene in which Richard Jaeckel drowns is strong and assured, it's agonizingly detailed and plays out in real time.
I admit feeling cheated out of story after a screening of POCKET MONEY (were you there?), a very laid back, modern day western with Newman and Lee Marvin getting into trouble near the Mexican border. Now knowing it's a pre BADLANDS screenplay by Terrence Malick, it may be worth another viewing. QUINTET however, probably falls under the catagory of it sounded like a good idea at the time.
I always heard that Newman and Redford were looking for a follow up project to BUTCH CASSIDY and THE STING for years. It never materialized and maybe for the best, as expectations for any reunion film would have most likely been unreasonable.
Pixar's CARS is not such a poor send off, appearing as an animated character (a classic model car with blue eyes), gives audiences an opportunity to step back and reflect on Newman with simply the sound of his voice. I had a feeling this would be his last performance and as sorry as I am to know that, there's still a number of Newman titles I've yet to view, both old and more recent. High on my list to someday see (if only for curiosity) is WUSA, with Newman as a d.j. at a right wing radio station. It sounds like a ferociously liberal project which probably helped land him on Nixon's enemies list, something he was most proud of.
I missed that Pocket Money screening, but saw it years afterwards—when I didn't care about story so much! As for The Silver Chalice, I might need to check it out again....