After a false start in the ridiculous, sub-camp costume melodrama "The Silver Chalice," Newman eschewed historical films except for westerns and built himself a rangy career as men of the city and country boys. Before he repeated his gigolo's role in "Sweet Bird of Youth," he was a potent/impotent Brick to Elizabeth Taylor¹s alluring Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." He brought sex appeal and humor to "The Long Hot Summer," an adaptation of William Faulkner that also starred Woodward. Yet his breakthrough role, Rocky Graziano in "Somebody Up There Likes Me," cast him as a graduate of New York¹s mean streets.
Newman¹s film career seemed to grow stronger in his later years, though two of his notable successes, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting," came when he was in his 40s. Both paired him with Robert Redford. Earlier triumphs included "Hud," a dark-edged modern western, and "The Hustler," a stinging portrait of a pool shark. Among the triumphs of his later years were "The Verdict," in which he excelled as an alcoholic Boston lawyer, and the underrated "Fort Apache the Bronx." Belatedly, he won his only Oscar for Martin Scorsese¹s vividly photographed sequel to "The Hustler," "The Color of Money"(1986).
Though best known as a primal Actors Studio film star, Newman also enjoyed success as a director, often with Woodward as his star. After acting together on a number of films, their first collaboration as director and actor was "Rachel, Rachel," the Oscar-nominated 1968 film about a lonely spinster teacher caring for her ancient mother. His later films with Woodward include "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" (1972), and "The Glass Menagerie" (1987).
A Saturday release from his West Coast representative noted that Newman's Own was "one of the first food companies to use all natural ingredients and he later pioneered an organic line with his daughter Nell. Today, Newman's Own is a multi-million food business whose proceeds are donated to thousands of charities around the world....a total which now exceeds $250 million.
"Particularly close to his heart were the Hole-in-the-Wall camps for children with life-threatening health conditions. One day, over 20 years ago, while sitting in a rowboat on a little woodland lake, then full of snapping turtles and surrounded by the Connecticut woods, he envisioned an old Western town like the one in "Butch Cassidy" stretched along the shore. But its facades would hide not only "roughing it"
accommodations for children who would come for two weeks, strictly for summer fun, but all the modern equipment that health emergencies might require, and a top cadre of medical personnel in western costume. Today, there is an association of such camps -- 11 member camps around the world, all on different themes, in Connecticut, New York, Florida, California, North Carolina, Ireland, United Kingdom, Hungary, France, Italy and Israel -- with additional programs in Vietnam and Africa."
More than 135,000 have enjoyed a Hole-in-the-Wall camp for free, since the first one opened. "When asked why he opened started the... camps, Newman said: "I wanted to acknowledge luck: the chance and benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others, who might not be allowed the good fortune of a lifetime to correct it."
In recent years, Newman became as well known for his food products as for his acting and directing. His salad dressings, pasta sauces, popcorn, salsa, chocolate and "fig Newmans" — among other edibles — show the actor in various guises. He took no profits from his business but instead channeled the earnings into various charities, including his Hole-in-the-Wall camps for terminally ill children (the first is in Ashford) and the Westport County Playhouse, recently restored and modernized under Woodward's stewardship.
Newman's Own began almost by accident before Christmas in 1980 when the actor and his friend, the writer A. E. Hotchner, were holed up in Newman¹s basement, filling old wine bottles with homemade salad dressing, presents for friends. The following spring, Newman decided to sell the dressing in local gourmet shops, in partnership with Hotchner, a writer who had specialized in Hemingway. In the first year, Newman's Own made nearly $1 million in profits. The Industrial Strength Venetian Spaghetti Sauce made its debut in 1983, with Newman and Woodward singing a duet. The company hit a snag in the late '80s when the owner of a delicatessen argued that Newman reneged on a promise of a share of the profits, but the case ended in a mistrial.
Newman and Woodward were also well known for their political efforts. He was among the delegates who fought for the antiwar candidate Sen. Eugene McCarthy, D-Minn., at the 1968 Democratic Presidential Convention.
Speaking to delegates In August 1968, he said:
"We're going to lay things really on the line. We're looking for a candidate who can win and become president. My sentiments are well known.
"Let's ask these questions: What is the Democratic Party about? To whom is it responsible and responsive to? I am new to participatory politics. I hope the convention won't reject me because I am new to participatory politics.
"If you're looking for unity, McCarthy is not afraid to accept new blood. Unless we initiate and accept new blood, the Democratic party is in for serious trouble. The McCarthy banner is the banner of hope. I would like to see a thoughtful man in the Presidency."
But amid the bitter turmoil that racked Chicago that summer, Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam policy prevailed. Of the maneuvers of the party to hold support for Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Newman told a television reporter: "It was sickening to watch the machine in action." Later, Newman's reputation as a liberal was so long-standing that it won him the No. 19 spot on the infamous Enemies List compiled by Charles Colson for Pres. Richard M. Nixon.
In November 1969, Newman became a magnet in the U.S. Senate campaign for Joseph Duffey. At the announcement, he popped a stick of gum in his mouth, and said in a low voice that he would do "quite a bit of campaigning for the candidate." Earlier that fall, one of his greatest hits, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" opened after the first movie premiere in New Haven's history, with Newman, Redford, Woodward and Barbra Streisand on hand at the Roger Sherman Theater.
Often chomping gum and saying "um," Newman became the main attraction in Duffey's 1970 campaign, whisking around the state in a six-seat, two-engine plane. He campaigned, he said because he did not want a tombstone that read: "Here lies Paul Newman. He never was part of his times." His humor often showed through. He told a crowd, "I always feel I should do something dramatic while campaigning, like setting up a stage and bringing in Raquel Welch."
Newman remained active in politics thereafter, serving at the United Nations General Assembly's special session on disarmament in May 1978. Then, in February 1987, Connecticut's Democratic State Chairman John F. Droney cited the actor as an "intriguing and serious choice" to challenge Connecticut's Republican U.S. Sen. Lowell Weicker, the following year. Newman ended the boomlet. "I'm happy to issue a denial for something I never intended to do."
From then on, he was no longer a highly visible figure in state politics. But he continued to pursue his love of auto racing at full-throttle through the years.
PAUL NEWMAN | 1925-2008
Paul Newman: A Legend Dies At 83
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