A Tribute to Paul Newman (1925-2008)


“There is a point where feelings go beyond words… I have lost a real friend. My life – and this country – is better for his being in it.”

-Robert Redford


 (You can purchase an art print of the above picture at Allposters.com.)

“He was my hero.”

-Julia Roberts, who served on the board of Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang


“I was blessed to have known him. The world is better because of him. Sometimes God makes perfect people and Paul Newman was one of them.”

-Sally Field (starred with Newman in the legal thriller Absence of Malice.)

 “Paul was an American icon, philanthropist and champion for children. We will miss our dear friend, whose continued support always meant the world to us. Our prayers and thoughts are with Joanne and the Newman family and the many people who Paul impacted through his endless kindness and generosity.”

-A statement by Senator Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton

 “If my eyes should ever turn brown, my career is shot to hell,” Paul Newman once joked.


“Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?”

-Newman regarding his lasting marriage to Joanne Woodward


Yowza- domestic life looks smokin’ hot here!

“Sexiness wears thin after awhile and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that’s a real treat!”

-Joanne Woodward

“He learned to use that flawless face, so we could see the complexities underneath.”

-Manohla Dargis, New York Times web site 

Classic, elegant, engaging- words like these fit Paul Newman to a tee.  Not only remarkably handsome- striking blue eyes, chiseled face, athletic physique- he used the power of celebrtity to do many good works.  Like many great actors (that I admire), Newman started out in theater in his early 20s.  Quickly, Holywood noticed his gorgeous looks; he tried to go against the “sex symbol” image (not unlike protege and friend, Robert Redford). 

Brando and Newman at a civil rights rally (sometime in the early 1960s).

He was called “the next Marlon Brando”; both men studied at The Actor’s Studio.  Brando was known for his mercurial emotions (both on and off-stage); while Newman was subdued and cool.  But there was something under the surface, making him all the more interesting to watch! 

Newman realized that doing typical leading man parts (which hit big at the box office) would enable him to do projects (plays/small-budget films) which showcased his range of ability.

Above is a still from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  with Elizabeth Taylor.  Wow, shouldn’t the set be on fire?  Seriously, Newman (who played depressed alcoholic Brick) is intriguing in this film, especially in scenes with Burl Ives (the overbearing Big Daddy).


In the eyes of mainstream Hollywood, Paul Newman took a risk with Hud- a memorable film where he played the swaggering, lay-about son of a Texan landowner.  Newman showed that charm can be dangerous.  Perhaps Hud’s anger towards his father affects his (bad) decisions?  Though he is a shallow character (not a tortured soul), Newman makes Hud very engaging.  Co-star Patricia Neal, the housekeeper that Hud hits on, does a great job also.  Noted film critic Pauline Kael wrote: there are some men who “project such a traditional heroic frankness and sweetness that the audience dotes on them, seeks to protect them from harm or pain.”

The Long Hot Summer is one of my mom’s favorite Newman movies.  The dialogue is terrific: fast, snappy, intelligent; the story was adapted from a novel by William Faulkner.  Newman and Woodward fell in love during the filming of The Long Hot Summer.  It’s an (unusual) love story involving two people who seem like total opposites.  Newman plays Ben Quick (great name for the character, you’ll see), a mysterious, charming, nearly-penniless man who is kicked out of one Southern  town.  He happens upon another town, and quickly makes himself useful to the wealthy patriarch of the community- Will Varner (Orson Welles).   


Mr. Varner’s daughter Clara (Woodward), a single, sensitive schoolteacher, has a strong dislike for Ben from the moment she meets him.  She feels that he can’t be trusted- an obvious opportunist in her mind.  Though he knows very little about Ben, Varner puts him in charge of the town’s general store.  Varner has a son (Jody) and daughter-in-law Eula (a very young Lee Remick) who also live with him in his mansion; they are newlyweds.   


But, the old man doesn’t see much of himself in his son, and soon thinks of Ben as family.  Varner’s lady-friend Minnie Littlejohn (a very funny Angela Lansbury) also seeks to be part of the family.  When her father (not so subtlely) suggests that Clara and Ben would make a good pair, she is horrified.  He wants grandkids to carry on his name, power, land, etc. To Clara, Ben represents heat, uncertainty, and other things that “nice girls” keep repressed.  Her blatant hostility doesn’t turn him off; he looks at her with unguarded interest.  “Miss Clara, you slam the door in a man’s face before he even knocks on it,” he says with disappointment.  During the picnic scene (see above photo), Clara clearly states what she is looking for in a husband.  She has not been saving herself up for a man like Ben, she insists.  Hmm, you shall see…  Below are some great lines from the film:

Ben and Clara discuss their (potential) relationship:

Clara: You’re too much like my father to suit me, and I’m an authority on him.
Ben: He’s a wonderful old man.
Clara: One wolf recognizes another.
Ben: Tame us. Make pets out of us. You could.


Varner talks about his youth:

Will Varner: I was young myself once. I used to hide in the greenery and hoot and bellow.
Clara: I’ll bet you did. I’ll bet you stayed longest and yelled loudest.
Will Varner: Your mama listened.


Varner confronts Ben about his past:

Will Varner: I got influence. I’ll dog you, boy, wherever you go. I’ll break you.
Ben: No, you won’t. You’ll miss me.  [Ah yes, very true!]

2 thoughts on “A Tribute to Paul Newman (1925-2008)

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