Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman (1925-2008), Oscar-Winner, Philanthropist

Paul Newman was a hell of an actor. If I could point to just a single film as his best work, it would probably be The Verdict (photo, left), which, had Gandhi been released in a different year, would surely have garnered Newman his long-awaited Oscar. I was surprised at how prominant Cool Hand Luke was in the television coverage of Newman's death (I mean as opposed to The Hustler). Maybe The Hustler being black-and-white was part of this; however, "Fast Eddie" is certainly his signature part. The fact that he won a sentimental Oscar for The Color of Money is not too troublesome-- his return to the role was well done.

And in terms of his later roles, I thought he was at the top of his game in Nobody's Fool. I still wish Cars wasn't his theatrical swansong-- but at least the role was Newmanesque. In May 2007 when he said: "You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention. So I think that's pretty much a closed book for me," announcing his retirement, it was a sad day-- but he'd earned it.

If retrospectives of his career do anything, I hope they prompt a DVD set of his early "live" television work. He did over a dozen roles, appearing in Philco TV Playhouse: "The Death of Billy the Kid," Producers Showcase: "Our Town," U.S. Steel Hour: "Bang the Drum Slowly," and Playhouse 90: "The 80-Yard Run," among others.

I was also the proud purchaser of many "Newman's Own" products— I hope the brand lasts. I was happy to know it was for a good cause (and I'm reasonably confident it just didn't pay for a non-profit CEO's over-inflated salary and perks), plus I really like the stuff-- like the Sockarooni spaghetti sauce! Love Newman's quote: "The embarrassing thing is that my salad dressing is out-grossing my films."

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