September 27, 2008
Paul Newman, who died yesterday at the age of 83, was one of the greatest actors and most engaging personalities of the 20th Century. I remember him most vividly in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), as well as The Sting (1973), in both of which he co-starred with Robert Redford. Here are some other Newman movies I enjoyed the most:
I have yet to see the highly-regarded Road to Perdition (2002, with Tom Hanks), but I'll have to do so soon. For the complete list of his cinematic and television achievements, see the Internet Movie Database.
Paul Newman was well known as a conscientious social activist, and was involved in a number of liberal causes. Compared to most of his peers in Hollywood, however, he showed more genuine concern for the less-fortunate, and was never one of those irritating "pious" grandstanders. One of them that I used to support many years ago is the Center for Defense Information. Tonight on Larry King Live, they rebroadcast an interview from 1999 (?) in which Newman talked about the Scott Newman Foundation (now Center), which was established after his son died of a drug overdose in 1978. It aims primarily to discourage the movie industry from glorifying substance abuse. Newman also had his own brand of salad dressing. In January, he and his wife Joanne Woodward (also an actor) celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. That must have set a record for Hollywood couples!
In sum, Newman's abundant charm, sincere character, and lifelong devotion to his profession into his eighties were almost unparalleled. He brought laughter and inspiration to millions of people, and his is the perfect example of a live well lived.