September 28th, 2008

carole lombard 07
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Paul Newman: An appreciation

I wish I could supply you with some personal family memories of Paul Newman, just as I did nearly six months ago when Charlton Heston -- another acting icon of his age -- passed on ( Alas, I can't, so I'll do the next best thing and link to some of the better things I've seen online about the man and his movies.

But first, some thoughts on his career.

There were three men who came to define the more naturalized "Method" acting style of the 1950s. James Dean made only a handful of films before his premature death, while Marlon Brando had a long, if erratic, career with many high points (and his share of low ones). Paul Newman, who rose to the forefront when he replaced Dean in 1956's "Somebody Up There Likes Me," completed the triumvirate.

Newman's matinee idol looks made him the most commercially successful of the Method actors, and his persona was defined by an array of anti-hero roles (think of "The Hustler," "Hombre" or "Hud"). But he was comfortable in all sorts of parts, as his 1980s work proved.

More important in appreciating Paul Newman the actor was appreciating Paul Newman the man. He was married for more than 50 years to Joanne Woodward (a fine actress in her own right), largely eschewed the Hollywood limelight for the sanctuary of his Connecticut home, and was one of the entertainment industry's top humanitarians. (His "Newman's Own" products have raised hundreds of millions for charities.) He will long be remembered, for his acting craft and his service to others. His substance was as considerable as his style.

Now for those links I've mentioned:

* A December 1994 Los Angeles Times interview with Newman (shown above in a Times photo from 2000), reviewing his career and promoting his latest film, "Nobody's Fool" ( He makes a good point as to how films have changed over the years: "It's certainly the theater of the senses now, as compared to the theater of the mind. They escalate the sensory impact of films now, the noise of them, the violence of them, the sensuality of them, and where will it end?"

* More from the Times files, on Newman's 50-year marriage to Woodward (

* Sitcom writer/disc jockey/baseball announcer Ken Levine, whose blog is always entertaining, recalls two days he spent with Newman in 1969 when the actor was doing research for what ultimately became his 1970 film "WUSA" (

* At "Something Old, Nothing New," Jaime J. Weinman has some intriguing comments on Newman's work with directors (
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