Paul Newman (1925 -

Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:


Yes, kids, that handsome, middle-aged man whose face you see on spaghetti sauce and salad dressing containers used to make your mothers swoon. In fact, he's an essential figure in film history, a bridge between the larger-than-life stars of Hollywood's Golden Age and the more down-to-earth, realistic actors who have dominated movies since the mid 1960s. With his magnetic blue eyes, gentle humor, and malleable persona, Paul Newman had-and still has-genuine star charisma ... but his tenure at the Method-oriented Actors' Studio and his propensity for playing outsider types set him apart from the traditional movie leading man. Newman debuted on Broadway in 1953 in William Inge's "Picnic," and almost instantly turned heads at the Hollywood studios; after a false start with his debut in the ludicrous Biblical saga The Silver Chalice (1954), Newman scored as tough, star-crossed boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and his film career was off and running.

Newman and second wife Joanne Woodward were paired in a number of films The Long Hot Summer, From the Terrace, Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!, Paris Blues, A New Kind of Love that only boosted his appeal. He hit his stride with an Oscarnominated performance as Brick in 1958's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and achieved further career milestones (and two more Oscar nods) as pool shark Eddie Felson in The Hustler (1961) and as an ambitious heel in Hud (1963). He was outstanding as the chain-gang prisoner in 1967's Cool Hand Luke (another Academy Awardnominated portrayal) and, of course, as a likable outlaw in the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969; he was also one of the film's executive producers) in which he first teamed with Robert Redford. In 1969 he got to combine his avid, real-life interest in auto racing with a film assignment in Winning (which costarred Woodward). He turned to directing with 1968's Rachel, Rachel the first of several first-rate films he would make with his wife as star. In the 1970s he alternated between quirky Robert Altman films and brash Hollywood disaster epics, but scored solidly, reteamed with Redford, in the delightful con-artist comedy The Sting (1973). In the 1980s, with traces of world-weariness etched in his still-handsome face and a hint of raspiness in his voice, Newman left the matinee-idol persona behind for good. He was effective as an unfairly maligned businessman in Absence of Malice (1981) and startlingly powerful as a whiskey-soaked lawyer in The Verdict (1982); he was Oscarnominated for both roles (nominations five and six, respectively). Never having won an Oscar, Newman was finally presented with an honorary award for the body of his work in 1985 (and for his "personal integrity and dedication to his craft"). Ironically, he won a bona fide Academy Award the very next year, when he reprised the role of pool hustler Eddie Felson-brilliantly-in Martin Scorsese's The Color of Money (1986).

No contemporary screen idol has ever aged more gracefully, but Newman refused to fall back on his looks, or his "persona," and continued to seek out challenges both as actor and director. In the latter guise he directed Woodward in a 1980 TV movie of the Broadway play "The Shadow Box," and 1987 remake of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie and costarred with her in James Ivory's ironic Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990). He played wildly colorful, eccentric Louisiana governor Earl Long in Blaze (1989) and Gen. Leslie R. Groves, the military leader in charge of The Manhattan Project, in Fat Man and Little Boy (1989).

The 1980s also saw him launch the manufacture and marketing of "Newman's Own" spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, and microwave popcorn, the proceeds from which benefit various children's charities. The politically conscious Newman continues to be outspoken on important issues, alternating screen work with labors for various liberal causes (and the drug treatment center named for his son Scott, who died in 1978 from an overdose of liquor and tranquilizers). Newman and Woodward shared Kennedy Center honors in 1992, but unlike many honorees they have not yet retired; far from it. In 1994 he starred for the Coen brothers in The Hudsucker Proxy and earned his eighth Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of an amiable small-town loser in Robert Benton's Nobody's Fool. He works only when a script inspires him, which allows audiences to place a certain stock in any movie he chooses to make.

OTHER FILMS INCLUDE: 1958: The LeftHanded Gun 1959: The Young Philadelphians 1960: Exodus 1962:Sweet Bird of Youth, Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man 1963: The Prize 1964: What a Way to Go!, The Outrage 1965: Lady L 1966: Harper, Torn Curtain 1967: Hombre 1968: The Secret War of Harry Frigg 1970: WUSA (with Woodward; also coproduced); 1971: They Might Be Giants (coproduced only); 1972: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the Moon Marigolds (produced and directed only), The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (also coexecutive produced); 1973: The Mackintosh Man 1974: The Towering Inferno 1976: The Drowning Pool, Silent Movie (cameo as himself), Buffalo Bill and the Indians 1977: Slap Shot 1979: Quintet 1980: EB> 1981: Fort Apache, The Bronx 1984: Harry and Son (with Woodward; also directed, cowrote, and coproduced).

Copyright © 1994 Leonard Maltin, used by arrangement with Signet, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.

 

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