Just weeks ago, I wrote in a review of Hud that there’s no other actor I’d rather be than Paul Newman. I guess I hadn’t heard much about him for a while, and that usually means one thing for a celebrity his age. I knew it was coming, and yet it depresses me.
There are fewer and fewer of his type: men who provided unreproachable role models and examples of how to live one’s life. A comment that I’ve read in several tributes this morning quote him explaining why he was faithful to his wife, the beautiful actress Joanne Woodward: “Why go out for a hamburger when you’ve got steak at home?” Very un-player-like, and not helpful if you want to get your face on Inside Edition. What was beautiful was that he didn’t care — he had other priorities. Best-known was his “Newman’s Own” line of salad dressings, spaghetti sauce and other food products, which has donated nearly $200 million to charity, much to his camps for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
His movies and characters were well-chosen and well-performed: Hud, The Hustler, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, The Color of Money, The Verdict, and Road to Perdition were among the best. And the iconic lead role in Cool Hand Luke (which I’m going to review soon, so I’ll keep it brief here), which any young actor would kill for today. That’s quite a career, and it’s not even counting his dozens of other solid performances.
Everytime we lose a Jimmy Stewart or a Johnny Cash, I feel robbed. Partially because we won’t experience more their great work, but also because it feels like there’s a little more room for the toxic ooze of someone like Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh in our daily life. I hope that’s not the case. I hope someone who seen and admired the work and life of Paul Newman will come along and try to emulate him. It’s going to take someone special, though. They just don’t make them like that anymore.
RIP Mr. Newman.