Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman (1925 - 2008)


Nobody would ever think to put Paul Newman in any death pool, frankly because nobody could imagine a world without him. We lost Newman late yesterday at the age of 83. He left one of the greatest bodies of film work of anybody, and we've also been fond for the way Paul Newman handled himself away from his movie work, and it's worth noting our own favorite Newman moments both on-screen and off (and we won't include all of the obvious ones you'll be hearing about over the next few days) This list by no means does Newman's career and life justice, it's just our own personal highlights:

  • "Where the Hell Are The Singing Cats": Paul Newman made a surprise appearance on David Letterman's very first show in 1993 when Dave took his act to CBS and the Ed Sullivan theatre. In the middle of the audience, a surprised Paul Newman stood up and asked Dave, "Where the hell are the singing 'Cats'?", acting confused that he wasn't at a Broadway play. Letterman and Newman shared a love for auto racing, and Paul would make numerous appearances on Dave's show through the years.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Really the start of the whole "buddy picture" genre, as Newman and co-star Robert Redford have such an easy chemistry it's impossible to note enjoy every frame of film. The movie holds up incredibly well (this despite the cheesy Burt Bacharach ballad "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head"). So many great scenes to choose from. No DVD collection should be without this one. Also one of the greatest endings in movie history.
  • The Verdict : George Clooney is on record as saying Newman's role in this courtroom drama is his favorite of all-time, which is saying something considering what a huge movie buff Clooney is. What could have been standard courtroom fair is elevated by a remarkable performance from Newman, who loved to play flawed characters and not hide any of their warts. Here he again plays a heavy drinker. The fact that Newman was on record saying how much he enjoyed drinking doesn't take away from what's probably his greatest performance.
  • Nobody's Fool: Perhaps my personal favorite Paul Newman movie. He plays an old small-town loner, distancing himself from his son but trying to reconnect to him and the grandson he never knew. Newman so perfectly captures a character we all know in real life, only considered to spend the majority of his day drinking, but charming enough to convince Melanie Griffith to show him her tits.
  • Slap Shot: The role for which Newman says is most similar to his own personality, that being of the vulgar, second-rate hockey coach. As far as sports movies go, this one holds up comedically like Caddyshack and will go down as the best hockey movie ever made, no matter what the masses think of Miracle as a film.
  • Iconoclasts: The Sundance Channel's original series that pairs two people for an hour and basically has them walk around and tell stories about their lives. One of their first episodes featured Newman and Sundance co-star Robert Redford. Almost 40 years after Butch & Sundance, they both still have a genuine chemistry off-screen. They share stories about George Roy Hill (who directed both in "Butch & Sundance" and The Sting, as well as Newman in Slap Shot). It's a great peek into how Newman in particular spends his days, and how Redford marvels at how much Paul enjoys his life of philanthropy, watching films and spending time with his wife of 50 years, Joanne Woodward.
  • The Hudsucker Proxy: Yes, Newman was in a Coen Brothers movie, sharing top billing with Tim Robbins. And somehow Newman as Sidney J. Mussburger fits right at home in the Coen's world. Not one of the most beloved Coen Brothers works, but as with most of Newman's films, it's aged very well.

Both Newman and Redford spoke for years of wanting to do one final picture together, but they just couldn't find the right script. You'd like to think Paul Newman died with no regrets, but I'm guessing he would have loved to have one more great film moment wtih Redford.

1 comment:

TravisRoastBeef said...

Paul Newman?? Isnt that the salad dressing guy?