Saturday, September 27, 2008

RIP Paul

Well, Geez.

I woke up this morning and did my usual get on the internet thing.

And WHAM! I read that Paul Newman has died.

I can't begin to describe how sad this makes me feel.

It seems he's been in my life forever as a kind of cultural touchstone. I find his passing almost impossible to assimilate.

Incredibly gifted, amazingly gorgeous, determinedly committed to his ideals and family, I could go on and on.

We are so fortunate that we can remember him by his many film roles. I first discovered him as Ben Quick in the Long Hot Summer and I have to admit he set my young hormones racing.

Fast Eddie Felson was another revealing portrait in a pair of landmark films. His portrayal of a young Eddie Felson in the Hustler won him his second Best Actor nomination (he was first nominated at Brick Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). When he reprised the role in 1987 in the Color of Money, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science FINALLY saw fit to award him with a Best Actor Oscar. That said, he needed no awards to shine.

He was always solid, but for me it was Hud that cemented him forever. While the whole film is a sublime cinematic experience (check out the superb cinematography by James Wong Howe, who won a well deserved Oscar for his work here), it is Newman's performance that was a revelation. To see an actor possessed of such charm and grace portray such an unprincipled, amoral cad was a revelation. While I was appalled, I couldn't stop watching. And Hud has stayed with me for years. It certainly doesn't hurt that the rest of the cast (Melvyn Douglas (Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), Patricia Neal (Oscar, Best Actress in a Leading Role), Brandon De Wilde) were all at the top of their game.

If you haven't seen it, Hud is a true masterpiece pf American Cinema.

Then came John Russell in Hombre. I think this is one of the more overlooked films in Newman's varied career, but it's a particular favorite of mine. Suffice it too say that if you've never viewed this film, do so ASAP. I promise that, after seeing it, you'll be thinking about It for a long time to come. It also contains some of the best dialogue ever heard in a film..

I could, of course go on forever on the films of Paul Newman. The characters he realized are so varied and memorable. So let's take just a moment and remember some more of my favorite portrayals by this gifted thespian. And see if you can remember the films without clicking the links!

Chance Wayne
Larry Flint
Lew Harper
Butch Cassidy
Hank Stamper
Henry Gondorff
Reg Dunlop
Michael Colin Gallagher
Frank Galvin
Gov. Earl K. Long
Sully Sullivan
John Rooney
Max Roby
and last but certainly not least
Doc Hudson

Wow! Even I didn't realize what a roster this would be.

While his acting accomplishments are certainly what brought him to the world's consciousness, what is really amazing is the man himself.

Not content to rest on his laurels, he always stood up for his convictions and was never afraid to put his fame and money to good use.

Married to the lovely Joanne Woodward for fifty years, their lives and dedication to their morals stand as an example to us all. To read a bit about their philanthropic endeavors (Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good) click here).

But here's what it all comes down to. The world is immensely poorer for his passing.

So go buy a bottle of your favorite product from the Newman's Own line and give a bit of money to the causes he supported throughout his life.

My condolences to his family and many friends.

RIP Paul, you will be missed.

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