Paul Newman: 1925-2008

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By Stephanie Holland

By Stephanie Holland

“I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” That famous line from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” sums up everything you need to know about its star Paul Newman. While the rest of us were busy trying to figure out life, he was busy living it.

On Sept. 27 at the age of 83 Paul Newman died from lung cancer. The star of classics like “The Hustler,” “The Sting” and “Slap Shot” is survived by his wife of 50 years Joanne Woodward, his five daughters and eight grandchildren.

It is impossible to imagine Hollywood without Newman, most of his roles are considered classics and his performance in them genius.

He began his career in the theater and in early TV appearing on shows like “The Aldrich Family” and “I’ve Got a Secret.” His first major film role came in 1954’s “The Silver Chalice,” however, always the rebel he took out an ad in Variety apologizing for the film because he hated it so much.

Four years later he was nominated for his first Academy Award for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” He was nominated for ten Oscars finally winning in 1987 for “The Color of Money,” in which he updated his character from “The Hustler,” Fast Eddie Felson.

Despite his success Newman became bored with Hollywood and began to pursue outside projects like auto racing and charity work.

In 1982 Newman and his neighbor decided to market Newman’s salad dressing as a joke. According to since its inception over $250 million in proceeds have been donated to charity. Newman’s Own began producing organic food before it was trendy to do so. The successful product line includes popcorn and spaghetti sauce with 100% of the profits benefiting various charities around the world.

Newman was known as a humble philanthropist who believed in taking care of the less fortunate but not in bragging about it.

In the 70s at the height of his legendary career Newman became a professional race car driver. Though he got a late start he won several races and championships including the grueling Daytona 24-hours.

Ironically his final two film roles merged his two passions, acting and racing. In 2006 he provided the voice of Doc in Disney’s “Cars,” and in 2007 he narrated the documentary “Dale” about the late Dale Earnhardt.

Despite his outside interests it is Newman’s intense, subdued style of acting that he will be remembered for. During his career he worked with some of Hollywood’s top stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Martin Scorsese and Robert Redford.

His most frequent co-star and perhaps his best was Woodward. From their first pairing in 1958’s “The Long, Hot Summer” to the classic tale of ambition and a loveless marriage, “From the Terrace,” they always provided a chemistry on-screen that was impossible to look away from. In a Playboy interview he once explained his long-term marriage, “I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?”

Newman’s good looks and famous blue eyes made him heartthrob his entire life but, he often played against type portraying a train robber, a hockey player, a rebellious prisoner and a grumpy grandfather.

Along with the recent passing of Sydney Pollack, Newman’s death closes the door on an era of Hollywood that will never be recreated. While Brad Pitt and George Clooney are famous for playing cool under pressure leading men, they owe their careers to Newman.

In Clooney’s own words, “He set the bar too high for the rest of us. Not just actors but all of us.”

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