Paul Newman, television, stage, and motion picture actor, automobile racer, philanthropist, and political activist has died of cancer at the age of 83:
Paul Newman, the legendary movie star and irreverent cultural icon who created a model philanthropy fueled by profits from a salad dressing that became nearly as famous as he was, has died. He was 83.
Newman died Friday at his home near Westport, Conn., after a long battle with cancer, publicist Jeff Sanderson said.
Stunningly handsome, Newman maintained his superstar status while protecting himself from its corrupting influences through nearly 100 Broadway, television and movie roles. As an actor and director, he evolved into Hollywood’s elder statesman, admired as much off screen for his quiet generosity, unconventional business sense, race car daring, political activism and enduring marriage to actress Joanne Woodward.
In doing my research for this post I was surprised to learn that Newman’s partner in the racing business was an old client of mine. Two degrees of separation, I guess.
Paul Newman began his acting career picking up parts in early television when he could get them. He made his Broadway debut in 1953 in William Inge’s Picnic, not playing Hank, the good-looking drifter, who was played by Ralph Meeker on the stage and William Holden on the screen, but Allan, Hank’s old school chum (played on screen by Cliff Robertson). My memories of Paul Newman’s movie performances mostly come from the movies I saw at the drive-in in the 1950’s and 1960’s: The Silver Chalice, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Long, Hot Summer, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Hustler. I’ve never been much of a fan of method acting but Newman was certainly a heckuva good-looking guy and always delivered a solid performance.
His death really marks the end of an era. To the best of my knowledge he was the first major Hollywood leading man to cut his acting teeth in television, generally something of a badge of shame in those days. And he was the last survivor of the cohort of male Hollywood stars who came to prominence in the 1950’s in the waning days of the studios: Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Rock Hudson, all deliriously beautiful and magnetic.