He gained a measure of fame of an auto racer, a sport he pursued well into his 70s, despite Woodward's efforts to sideline him. He often competed at Connecticut's Lime Rock Park, successfully handling a Chevrolet Corvette, as a star of the track in recent chapters in the American GT Challenge. He competed at Le Mans and Daytona as well.
He was still racing at 81, having taken on the voicing of "Doc" Hudson, a 1951 Hudson Hornet in the 2006 Disney/Pixar in "Cars." At that point he told USA Today, "I¹m running out of steam. I¹ll keep driving as long as I'm competitive and as long as I don't embarrass myself. And so long as I don't dissolve into a tub of sweat, Those cars get awfully hot."
Newman was a revered, even beloved figure, but his love of racing sometimes drew fire, In May of 2006, the New York Times carried an op-ed piece opposing his desire to put a Grand-Prix style racing to Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field, a 1,115-acre retreat for fishing, camping, nature hiking, community gardening and investigating marine life.
After "Cars," he had no future roles in view, though he and Redford both hoped to work together again. "We're working on it," he said.
Truly, he was a man of many parts, yet he will be remembered and enjoyed in perpetuity for his long and varied career as a movie star.
Born Paul Leonard Newman on Jan. 26, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio, to the successful owner of a sporting goods store, a Jew, and a mother of Hungarian descent, (who converted to Christian Science), he played Robin Hood in a grade school play, in a forecast of his future as an actor and as a liberal. Barely out of high school, he served in World War II as a radioman with the Navy Air Corps in the South Pacific. After his discharge in 1946, he entered Kenyon College in his native Ohio, with plans to study economics. Instead he found himself drawn into theater. Upon graduation in 1949, he took over the family business after the death of his father, but soon became bored and sold out to his older brother, Arthur. Roles in community theater and stock led him to the Yale School of Drama in New Haven for a year and then to Actors Studio in New York during the reign of Lee Strasberg and "the Method."
After working in radio, and sporadically in the television version of "The Aldrich Family," he landed his first Broadway part. On Feb. 19, 1953, William Inge's "Picnic" opened, with Newman as the preppy Alan Seymour, the good boy who lost out to Ralph Meeker's muscular drifter stud, with the legendary Josh Logan as his director. Newman's acting won him a Theater World Award. Two years later, he was cast as Glenn Griffin, the leader of a trio of prison escapees who take over the house of a middle-class family and terrorize them, in "The Desperate Hours." (Bizarrely, the playwright Joseph Hayes reworked his novel and play to make Glenn a much older man, fitting the role for Humphrey Bogart in his penultimate film). Robert Montgomery directed the play.
Newman was not drafted for either of the roles he created, but Hollywood had already seen Newman's potential, though Warner Bros. badly miscast him in "The Silver Chalice," based on the Thomas B. Costain best seller about a slave freed by the apostle Luke to fashion a chalice for the Last Supper. Newman took out an ad in a trade magazine apologizing to anyone who paid to see the 1954 film. But his movie career took off after "The Desperate Hours," when he won the role of Rocky Graziano, the bad boy turned middleweight champion in "Somebody Up There Likes Me," directed by Robert Wise and based on the boxer's autobiography. He landed the breakthrough role after the death of James Dean, who was originally cast. Newman showed his range in another 1956 release, "The Rack," when he played a Korean War veteran accused of collaborating with the enemy after his brainwashing and torture. Rod Serling directed. In 1957, he worked in both "The Helen Morgan Story" and "Until They Sail," a romance of four New Zealand sisters in wartime, directed by Wise.
Not all of these pictures are remembered today, but most were major projects with top stars. And 1958 pushed Newman to real stardom, with the release of "The Long Hot Summer," with the shirtless star as the redneck Ben Quick, directed by Martin Ritt; "The Left-Handed Gun," the star¹s first shot at a western as an actor's studio Billy the Kid, directed by Arthur Penn, and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," directed by Richard Brooks. His playing of the alcoholic ex-football star Brick Pollitt brought his first best actor Oscar nomination. The year also featured a second pairing of Newman and Woodward, in "Rally 'Round the Flag Boys!,"the Max Schulman service-sex comedy, directed by Leo McCarey. This was also the year Newman and Woodward married. They met in 1953, and his eight-year marriage to actress Jackie Witt ended in 1957. They had two daughers and a son.
The year 1959 brought only the admired "The Young Philadelphians," with Newman as a lawyer battling his way up under a cloud of illegitimacy. But 1960 was indeed a very good year, capped by one of his most famous roles up to that time, the Haganah leader Ari Ben Canaan in Otto Preminger¹s epic "Exodus," adapted from the Leon Uris best seller by the once blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, and by his return to Broadway to create the role of the gigolo Chance Wayne in "Sweet Bird of Youth." Another of the year's releases found him in John O'Hara territory, "From the Terrace," with Woodward. This was also the year that brought him back to Broadway in "Sweet Bird of Youth," opposite Geraldine Page.
Another benchmark role came in 1961, when Newman starred as the pool shark "Fast" Eddie Felson in Robert Rossen's "The Hustler." It brought him his second Oscar nomination for best actor, in a powerful, painful, dark film which garnered four acting nominations. He also starred in "Paris Blues," Martin Ritt's atmospheric depiction of American jazzmen in Paris, with Woodward, Sidney Poitier and a Duke Ellington score.
He made the film version of "Sweet Bird of Youth" in 1962, along with "Hemingway¹s Adventures as a Young Man." Ritt's "Hud," which brought him another best actor Oscar nomination for his playing of the contemptible but engaging "man with a barb wire soul," led his 1963 credits, which also included "A New Kind of Love," a so-so Paris comedy pairing Newman and Woodward, and "The Prize," an OK thriller with Newman as a Nobel Prize winner caught up in an espionage plot. The following year, 1964. cast Newman as one of Shirley MacLaine's husbands in "What a Way to Go!" and a Mexican bandit in "The Outrage," Ritt's revision of Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon." It was also the year Newman returned once again to Broadway, with Woodward, in James Costigan¹s "Baby Want a Kiss," a minor effort that ended his stage work until he elected to do "Our Town" in Westport and on Broadway. His stay in New York limited his 1965 output to Peter Ustinov's "Lady L," with Sophia Loren.
But 1966 put Newman into "Harper," the first and best entry in a short-lived franchise based on Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer mysteries and paired him with Julie Andrews in the disappointing "The Torn Curtain," another Cold War caper that is one of the lesser efforts of the great Alfred Hitchcock. Then in 1967, he created one of his more admired roles as the rebellious inmate in Stuart Rosenberg¹s "Cool Hand Luke," and reteamed him with Ritt as a white man raised as an Indian in "Hombre." His role in the prison drama resulted in another best actor nomination from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1968, he pulled down an Oscar nomination for directing Woodward in the admired "Rachel, Rachel," and also found time to work in the minor "The Secret War of Harry Frigg."
Then came one of the pictures that made him a legend, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," George Roy Hill's hip western with a very blond Redford providing brilliant buddy chemistry. The year, 1969, also put him into the driver's seat in "Winning," kicking off a longtime love for auto racing. In 1970, he joined with Rosenberg — and Woodward — again, for "WUSA," about a right-wing radio station in the Old South. He took over the direction and also starred with Henry Fonda in the 1970 "Sometimes a Great Notion," based on a Ken Kesey novel. A pair of westerns, neither classic, occupied him in 1972: Rosenberg's "Pocket Money" and John Huston's "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" — a change of pace role. But Newman's major project was directing Woodward and their daughter, Nell Potts, in the film version of Paul Zindel's bizarre comedy portrait of a strange family, "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds."
In 1973 Newman and Redford paired again in Hill's fast, colorful con man comedy, "The Sting," and also matched him with Huston in a Cold War thriller, "The MacKintosh Man." The lone 1974 release was that all-star blockbuster disaster picture, "The Towering Inferno," one of the better entries in a then hot genre.
In 1975, Newman played Lew Harper again, in the rather routine "The Drowing Pool" that put an end to that franchise. The next year put him together with Robert Altman in the handsome but hollow "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull¹s Mistake." Newman looked great as William Cody, but the colorful view of the Wild West Show fell well short of the hypnotic original play, Arthur Kopit¹s "Indians." Hill and Newman collaborated again in the 1977 "Slap Shot," which cast the athletic star as Reggie Dunlop, the aging player-coach of a low-rent hockey team. The brawling picture won some admirers, obscenities and all. Then, in 1979, Newman took another chance on Altman in a venture into a frozen future, the tiresome "Quintet."
Death of a son
PAUL NEWMAN | 1925-2008
Paul Newman: A Legend Dies At 83
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