Newman, Paul

born Jan. 26, 1925, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.

U.S. film actor.

He studied drama at Yale University and the Actors Studio and first appeared on Broadway in Picnic (1953). In 1954 he made his screen debut in the disastrous biblical epic The Silver Chalice. He won favourable notice in Somebody up There Likes Me (1956) and The Long Hot Summer (1958). In many of his best-remembered roles, he captured the darker, less heroic aspects of a character's nature, as in such successful films as The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Color of Money (1986; Academy Award), and Nobody's Fool (1994). He directed and produced films such as Rachel, Rachel (1968) and The Glass Menagerie (1987), both of which starred his wife, Joanne Woodward. In 1982 he launched the successful "Newman's Own" line of food products, with its profits going to a number of charitable causes.

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▪ American actor and philanthropist
in full  Paul Leonard Newman 
born Jan. 26, 1925, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
died Sept. 26, 2008, Westport, Conn.

      handsome and charismatic American film actor, who was an enduring screen presence in the second half of the 20th century.

      Newman served as a navy radio operator during World War II and upon his discharge enrolled at Ohio's Kenyon College (B.A., 1949). He completed one year of graduate studies in theatre at Yale University but gained his most important experience at New York's Actors Studio (Actors Studio, The). On the basis of his first Broadway play, Picnic (1953), Newman signed a film contract with Warner Brothers and also appeared in live television dramas (Our Town [1955] and Bang the Drum Slowly [1956]).

 Newman secured his future in films with his impressive portrayal of boxer Rocky Graziano (Graziano, Rocky) in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). His other notable films of the late 1950s include The Rack (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958; for which he received his first Academy Award nomination), The Long, Hot Summer (1958), The Left-Handed Gun (1958), and The Young Philadelphians (1959).

 In 1960 Newman led an international cast in Otto Preminger (Preminger, Otto)'s epic film Exodus, based on the novel by Leon Uris (Uris, Leon) about the founding of Israel. In 1961 he essayed the role which perhaps best defined his screen persona, that of pool shark “Fast” Eddie Felson in The Hustler. Earning for him another Oscar nomination, The Hustler was the first in a series of 1960s films in which Newman portrayed antiheroic protagonists. Hud (1963), Harper (1966), Torn Curtain (1966), Hombre (1967), and Cool Hand Luke (1967) further solidified his image as an ingratiating iconoclast.

 Two enormously popular films teamed Newman with costar Robert Redford (Redford, Robert) and director George Roy Hill. The comic western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) received seven Oscar nominations and was among the top-grossing films of the year. In 1973 the pair portrayed Depression-era con men in The Sting, a widely seen work that won the Academy Award for best picture.

      Newman worked for a number of noted directors on pictures that, though box office failures at the time of their release, went on to become cult favourites. He played alongside Lee Marvin (Marvin, Lee) and Strother Martin in the antiheroic western Pocket Money (1972), directed by Stuart Rosenberg. John Huston (Huston, John) directed Newman in the title role of the darkly comic The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) and again in the British private-eye thriller The Mackintosh Man (1973). Director Robert Altman (Altman, Robert) used Newman effectively in his spoof on American western folklore, Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976), and again in the controversial Quintet (1979), a futuristic saga. Newman also maintained his star status by appearing in such popular films as The Towering Inferno (1974), Slap Shot (1977), Fort Apache, the Bronx (1981), and two films for which he received Oscar nominations, Absence of Malice (1981) and The Verdict (1982).

      After six Academy Award nominations for best actor and one career-achievement Oscar, he finally won the Academy Award in director Martin Scorsese (Scorsese, Martin)'s The Color of Money (1986), the sequel to The Hustler. In 1989 he portrayed Louisiana Gov. Earl K. Long in Blaze. At age 70 he was nominated yet again, for his depiction of an unemployed construction worker in Nobody's Fool (1994), directed by Robert Benton and based on the novel by Richard Russo. That same year Newman gave a broadly satirical performance as an unscrupulous tycoon in Joel and Ethan Coen (Coen brothers)'s The Hudsucker Proxy. Benton also directed him in the detective thriller Twilight (1998). His supporting role as a mob boss in Road to Perdition (2002), directed by Sam Mendes, earned him another Oscar nomination. After voicing a character in the animated film Cars (2006), Newman retired in 2007, saying, “I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to…so that's pretty much a closed book to me.” He was diagnosed with cancer that year and died of the disease in 2008.

      Newman occasionally directed films, and his 1971 film version of Ken Kesey (Kesey, Ken)'s novel Sometimes a Great Notion is widely considered a classic, if an often overlooked one. He frequently cast his second wife, award-winning actress Joanne Woodward, in the lead—beginning with Rachel, Rachel (1968), which earned an Oscar nomination for best picture. Newman and Woodward had met while working together on Broadway in 1953, and the two were married in 1958. Over the next 50 years they became one of Hollywood's most enduring couples. They appeared on-screen together for the last time in 2005, when they starred in the television miniseries Empire Falls. Newman won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his portrayal of the cantankerous father of protagonist Ed Harris in that miniseries.

      A noted political liberal, Newman was outspoken in support of causes such as same-sex marriage and global disarmament. He was also a businessman and philanthropist. He launched the successful Newman's Own line of food products in 1982, with its profits going to a number of charitable causes. Some 25 years after its founding, the food line comprised some 80 products and was sold worldwide, generating a reported $250 million of profits donated to charity. Newman joked, “The embarrassing thing is that the salad dressing is outgrossing my films.” In 2008 he turned over his ownership of the firm to the Newman's Own Foundation. In 1988 he founded the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with serious medical conditions; at the beginning of the 21st century, Hole in the Wall had expanded to 14 camps located around the world. He later helped establish (2006) a gourmet restaurant to support the Westport Country Playhouse, a theatre group in which he and Woodward were long active. A passionate race car driver since the early 1970s, Newman became co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in 1982. In 2003 he authored the memoir Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good with Newman's Own business partner A.E. Hotchner.

Additional Reading
Elena Oumano, Paul Newman (1996); Lawrence J. Quirk, The Films of Paul Newman (1997); Eric Lax, Paul Newman, a Celebration (1999).

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Universalium. 2010.

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