One of the last remaining Hollywood legends has left us.
Paul Newman passed away yesterday after a battle with lung cancer. He was 83. It’s truly a sad day for film fans everywhere.
Amazingly, after over 50 years in film, Newman never lost that classic movie star glow. His presense on the screen was undeniable, whether he was 21 years old, playing a boxer in Somebody Up There Likes Me, or 77 years old, playing the againg mentor/enemy to Tom Hanks’ gangster in Road to Perdition. He personified the legacy of classic Hollywood.
In the 1950s, he was part of a new breed of actors, men who dared to their naturalistic style to Hollywood, who weren’t afraid of turning away from refined, pretty boy rolesin favor of rough, complicated characters. And Newman was one of the bravest of all, not shying away from the really harsh stuff, like the latent homosexuality of his role in 1958’s Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. His characters were raw, real, and showed emotion that the generation that came before him hadn’t.
And he was a shining example off-screen as well. While some of his contemporaries were immersed in scandal, or allowed their personal demons to destroy their lives and careers, Newman led a life of generosity. He was married to his wife, Joanne Woodward for 50 years, living a quiet life out of the spotlight. He was also a humanitarian, always mindful of those who weren’t fortunate to have all the things he did. The proceeds from the food business he began all went to charity, and he was the founder of several groups for terminally ill children.
And he will, of course, always be remembered for his films. He will forever be the embodiment of the rebellious anti-hero of the 1960s. His films and images will live on forever. I know I’ll never be able to think of “some place like Bolivia” without thinking of the great Paul Newman.
When something like this happens, you want kind of want to say something like, “Let’s not remember him in death. Let’s remember him in his youth. When he was young, untouched, and rebellious. Let Cat On a Hot Tin Roof be the way we remember him”. But that’s just not fair with Paul Newman. Because he didn’t just get old and decide to quit. He kept going. And somehow, he managed to stay just as incredible, cool, awesome, rebellious, charming, funny, and entertaining as he was in those early film. He was just as cool at 80 as he was at 25. And that deserves to be remembered. He will always be that carelessly sexy, beautiful blue eyed man who made who made smoking a cigarette look like a kiss, who made a slouch seem like a battle stance, and who made bad boys have heart. But he’ll also always be the man who wasn’t afraid to age, who wasn’t afraid to take on different kinds of roles and change his image as the years went on. He’ll always just be Paul Newman. One of the coolest guys ever.
This has already been a really tough year on Hollywood, with the loss of legends like Richard Widmark and Anita Page, and the tragic and unexpected death of Heath Ledger. You would think that maybe with so much death this year it would start to get easier, but it doesn’t. And especially not when it’s Paul Newman. When it’s someone like this, someone who is a LIVING legend, who has been alive and active in film throughout your whole life, but was also around before then, during the golden age… even with the knowledge that they’re getting older and they will die soon, it’s almost impossible to think about what the film world will be like without them. Especially someone as important as Paul Newman. His absence will be felt for a very long time.