Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman 1925 - 2008

The news of Paul Newman's passing is all over the worldwide web and for once I applaud the hype. As an actor, Newman was a solid Brick, a brash "Fast Eddie," a ruthless Hud, a "Cool Hand" Luke, a straight talkin' Butch, the master of the long con Henry, a once-great hockey player/coach Reg, crime boss John Rooney, and the voice of the classy chassis Doc Hudson to name but a few of the unforgettable roles he owned. He was not only a great actor, but equally as great was his selection of projects. There simply are not that many bad Newman films in his resume (we can forgive The Secret War of Harry Frigg).

Sure, he was an award winning actor, a box office draw, a heart throb, and one of the most recognized faces on the planet, but he was so much more. He was not just a fan of auto racing, but a championship driver and successful rase team owner. In his youth, he was a Navy Aviation Radioman in World War II. He was a political activist. According to artist Gil Kane, he based his original illustrations of Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) on Newman. He was a successful businessman and the co-founder of Newman's Own, a company that generates more profits than any of his biggest movies. He was also a generous philanthropist. All the post-tax profits and royalties from Newman's Own go to charity. And last, but certainly not least, he was a devoted husband and father. His marriage to Joanne Woodward lasted more than half a century.

I had the pleasure of seeing the man in person once when I lived in Florida. In the summer of '92, the beautiful Enzian Theater in Maitland was host to the first-ever Florida Film Festival. I attended many films during the festival, and I when I sat down to watch the screening of Atom Egoyan's The Adjuster, I was surprised to see Mr. Newman in my row about five seats away. It was a premiere event, but you could not tell by looking at him as he was wearing casual sweats. Yet he still managed to look classy while comfortable. I did not speak to him before the film began (he was chatting away with director Robert Wise) and after the credits, he was gone. Not much of a great story, but I was honored by the sighting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008