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R.I.P. Paul Newman

Nm_paul_newman_070523_ssv If the word “cool” hadn’t already existed, it would had to have been invented for Paul Newman, who died yesterday at age 83 after a long battle with lung cancer. Newman became a bonafide star after just his second movie, 1956’s Somebody Up There Likes Me, a boxing drama in which he played Rocky Graziano, a role originally intended for another icon of cool, James Dean.

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Unlike Dean or Marlon Brando, however, Newman’s appeal was grounded in an everyman, easygoing quality. Despite his matinee-idol looks and blue eyes, Newman cut an approachable figure on the screen – he was always one of us, never looking down on us – and his natural penchant for playing flawed men, outcasts and rebels added to his appeal.

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In role after role – the pool shark Fast Eddie in 1961’s The Hustler, the indomitable convict in 1967’s Cool Hand Luke, the womanizing rancher in 1963’s Hud – Newman took characters who didn’t always act in respectable or noble ways and ran off with the audience’s sympathy anyway.

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Although it would have been easy for him to exploit the general goodwill the public had toward him, Newman rarely opted for easy, overtly commercial projects. When he did – as in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or 1973’s The Sting, both of which famously paired him with Robert Redford – the movies turned out to be worthy of his stature, crowd-pleasing entertainments that also went down as classics of their kind.

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Mostly, though, Newman, who appeared in more than 100 movies, plays and TV shows in a career that spanned more than 55 years, gravitated toward more complex parts, be it the alcoholic lawyer working a seemingly unwinnable case in 1982’s The Verdict or the manipulative drifter with a penchant for setting fires in 1958’s The Long Hot Summer.

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Summer also marked the first time

Newman worked opposite his wife Joanne Woodward in a film. The couple had met five years earlier, while co-starring in a Broadway production of Picnic, and their 50-year marriage, one of the longest and most fabled in Hollywood, also affected Newman’s career. He directed his first film, 1968’s Rachel, Rachel, as a vehicle for Woodward when her career hit a slow patch, and it earned them both Oscar nominations (for Best Picture and Best Actress).

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The pair would work together again several times, whether as co-stars (The Drowning Pool, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge) or as director and actress (The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, The Glass Menagerie).

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When the couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary this January, Newman said, “Joanne has always given me unconditional support in all my choices and endeavours, and that includes my race car driving, which she deplores. To me, that’s love.”

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Race cars became an obsession for Newman after he played a professional driver in 1968’s Winning: He competed on the professional circuit and was a co-owner of a racing team. That was one of his passions outside acting. Another was his philanthropic work, including his line of “Newman’s Own” food products, which have generated more than $250 million for charities.

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Despite his acclaim, Newman didn’t win an Oscar until 1986’s The Color of Money, in which he reprised the role he had created in The Hustler for director Martin Scorsese and co-star Tom Cruise. The movie was fine, and so was Newman, but the award was obviously more intended to reward his entire career than his work in that particular film.

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Newman’s gregarious personality made everything seem easy, including the way he handled his Hollywood career. Although he starred in the occasional for-the-money-only project (The Towering Inferno, When Time Ran Out), he invested himself in those pictures as fully as he did when he was working for A-list directors such as Robert Altman (Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson) or Alfred Hitchcock (Torn Curtain).

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There was a sincerity to Newman - a sense of morality and simple, aw-shucks decency - that came across in his acting. He was the rare breed of star who appealed equally to both sexes. Men wanted to be his friend and go grab a beer with him, because you knew it would be a fun night out; women swooned and dreamt of meeting a guy with his combination of looks, character and mischievous humor.

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You couldn't compare Newman to other actors: You compared other actors to him, because the phrase "Newmanesque" immediately conveyed what you were trying to say. In 2002, after the release of Road to Perdition, his last appearance in a theatrical film (not counting his voice work for Pixar's Cars), his co-star Tom Hanks said about Newman:

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"He'd slug me if I was to call him an icon that I was intimidated by. He wouldn't want to hear anything about it. But the fact is, come on, he's Paul Newman. But he's much more than anything you'd expect. He's much more relaxed, unassuming. He gets it. He understands that the biggest job of being an actor, the hardest thing to do is to really capture 45 seconds of truth on film in the course of a long day."

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nada

I'm not so glad he was alive i didn't think he was a good actor that much just playing he was great of an actor Paul Newman R.I.P man R.I.P

lenny1

Tell Nada that in this case, once you made your comment, move on. I am sure there is something else you can comment on. Most of us loved this guy and the roles he played.

cub62

He was a great actor a humanitarian and loved racing. He will be missed very much.

Francesco Sinibaldi

love your behaviour...

I love your
behaviour, the light
of a blackbird
and a luminous
farm; I listen
to you when
a care disappears
and then, in the
sound of a new
day, a magical
dreamland invites
me to cry....

Francesco Sinibaldi

Jess

Alas, this day had to come eventually, RR.

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