Paul Newman is dead. He is 83 years old.
Really, how time flies. I still remember watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when I was in the elementary school. I immediately related to the clever Butch Cassidy character rather than to the faster (at the draw) and younger Sundance Kid character.
This was the first Newman film that I saw although his films like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof were always shown on TV. The next time a Paul Newman film was shown on TV, I tried to watch out for them. Thus, I saw Hud, Cool Hand Luke, the Hustler and of course, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
I am not sure when I saw Sometimes a Great Notion, but after seeing The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean and The Sting, Paul Newman became my idol. The Sting remains as one of my favorite films. This was in the early 70s and I was in high school.
When the Towering Inferno came, I was delighted to see so many great actors and actresses together, including William Holden, Fred Astaire and Jennifer Jones, whom I watched in movies on TV. I also liked Steve McQueen, whom I admired in Bullitt, Thomas Crown Affair, Le Mans, Papillon and The Getaway. But even though Steve’s name was billed before Paul’s (Paul’s name was a few centimeters higher), I thought that Newman had the better role. After all, he got the girl (Faye Dunaway), if I remember correctly.
Besides, at 15 years old, I certainly preferred to be an architect rather than a fireman. And Newman was much better looking than McQueen.
Then came The Drowning Pool. I did not see Harper so I did not even know that it was a sequel. I though it was a good detective film but nothing extraordinary. I liked the presence of Joanne Woodward and Tony Franciosa, who was Matt Helm on TV.
In college, I didn’t get to see many films, except during summer. I think I saw only one Newman film, Slapshot, a comedy with Michael Ontkean. But I was quite surprised that Paul found a new career as a race car driver.
I remember talking to a classmate and he mentioned that his dad was old. I asked him how old and he said he was 54 years old. I exclaimed, “That is not old. Paul Newman is 54 and he is racing cars!” My classmate said that I should not choose extraordinary people to compare his dad with.
After college, I thought Paul Newman was already a has-been. Many 1970s actors were no longer doing films by 1980. Paul was a star since the late 1950s. He was still part of the Studio system in Hollywood. Many of his contemporaries were already has-beens by the late 1970s as producers and directors refused to get the stars of the Studio era.
Despite Paul Newman’s back-to-back success with The Sting and Towering Inferno, producers and especially top-notch directors in the late 1970s did not want to have anything to do with whom they call “superstars.” They preferred younger actors like Pacino, DeNiro, Hoffman and Nicholson or even older men but not Hollywood studio superstars like Walter Matthau and Steve McQueen.
To my pleasant surprise, in 1981, Absence of Malice came out to great critical acclaim. And the 50s, 60s and 70s star Paul Newman was still very much in the game. I was also glad that the Flying Nun, Sally Field, was now a great dramatic actress.
Then came The Verdict. I was stunned. I had never seen Paul Newman act in such a great manner. I was sure that he would win the Oscars, and felt angry when he didn’t.
Four years later, Newman starred in The Color of Money with the young Tom Cruise. When I saw in the final scene the Fast Eddie character, after hitting the break, exclaiming “I’m back!”, I knew then that Paul Newman was back at the top and he would definitely win the Oscars.
Finally, after so many nominations, Paul brought home the OSCARS, which could now be displayed alongside his wife Joanne Woodward’s, who won hers about THRITY (30) years earlier.
It is quite usual for Academy Award winners to be swamped with offers after winning the OSCARS. But apparently, it is not the case with Newman. The great “avant garde” directors still did not seem to want Newman for an actor. Perhaps they were intimidated.
After the fall of the Hollywood studio system, younger producers and directors boycotted the stars created by the Hollywood studios. By the mid-70’s, so many of them fell by the wayside like one of the biggest stars of the 50s, 60s and early 70s and Newman’s contemporary, Charlton Heston. Only a handful of them survived. I credit that to the survivors’ innate talents, sense of self-respect and dignity, innovativeness and creativity. Paul Newman was one of those handful Hollywood studio stars who retained their star status in the post-studio Hollywood.
At the end of the 1980s, he did two films —Fat Man and Little Boy, a quite forgettable film, and Blaze, a comedy. I wondered why he even considered doing the Fat Man and Little Boy movie.
The start of the 1990s looked auspicious for the Newmans when Mr. and Mrs. Bridge came out. It was a critical success. Joanne got more critical acclaim than Paul. She was nominated for the Oscars and Golden Globe and won the NY Film Critics Award. For the first time, I saw Paul Newman as an old man. I thought he would never grow old. He was 65. I thought that the film was more a tribute to the enduring strength of Newman and Woodward as real-life husband and wife and as film stars.
I never saw Nobody’s Fool. I read that he was nominated for OSCARS and the Golden Globe. Maybe I’ll buy the DVD soon.
I saw Twilight. I thought it was a bad imitation of The Drowning Pool. And I felt that the cast – Newman, Hackman, Garner and Sarandon – were too old for their roles. It was a great cast
for the wrong movie.
At the end of the 90s, he co-starred in Message in a Bottle. I liked the movie but I did not like the fact that Newman just played a secondary role. He still had charm to carry a whole film.
At the start of the 21st century, I saw on TV that he had a new movie coming — Where the Money Is. Unfortunately, it was not shown in local theaters and I did not see any DVDs around.
In 2002, I saw Road to Perdition. It was a very good film. And he was great. I felt then that his time on the big screen was going to end. He was already doing supporting roles.
Empire Falls was his last appearance. At 78, he still looked strong and charming. He was also a good actor. He won an Emmy for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. It was his swan song. Remarkably, Joanne Woodward was also in that 2-part TV series.
And now Paul Newman is gone. I have admired him in his movies and in his off-screen persona – as a race car driver, a salad dressing chef and a philanthropist. I admire his endurance and even though he and his wife were stars, they never went down the level of Hollywood couples. They maintained their dignity and elegance through the years. He seemed to me the epitome of a modern-day gentleman, a great role model.
They don’t make stars like Paul Newman anymore.
I saw Nobody’s Fool on DVD. It is a very good film — perfect for Newman. The other actors did well, too. I now remember why I did not see the film when it was shown in the theaters. In the Philippines, it was billed as a Bruce Willis film, not a Newman film. While I have seen practically all Bruce Willis films, I did not think then that Newman was ready to play second fiddle to Willis. So I decided not to see the film back then. Oh well, better late than never.