Remembering Paul Newman

posted by Eric Friedmann on September 30, 2008 at 1:55 am

Paul Newman passed away over the weekend at the age of 83 from cancer. He was one of the last of the great 20th Century movie stars, and indeed, one of the greatest actors I’ve ever seen.

The first film of his that I ever saw was “The Towering Inferno” when it premiered on a relatively new cable channel called HBO in December 1975. Believe it or not, I would not see a Paul Newman film on screen until “The Color of Money” in 1986. But in between, of course, as I learned to appreciate good film, I would discover and cherish such titles as “The Hustler”, “Exodus”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Verdict”.

His passing causes me to reflect not only on his great career but also the fact that there are almost no Hollywood legends left. People of my generation (I was born in 1967) have stars like Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and Jessica Lange to look to as our screen legends.

But what of the future? My son is two and a half years old and it almost breaks my heart to think that by the time he’s a young man, the actors of today who may or may not qualify as tomorrow’s Hollywood legends are people like Ashton Kutcher, Will Ferrell, Jack Black and Reese Witherspoon.

If this is the case, then frankly, I weep for the future.

Rest in peace, Paul. We loved you. We’ll miss you. We’ll never forget you.

Comments (12)

markp on September 30, 2008 at 4:12 am

I could not have said it better myself. I am about 8 years older than you, love movies, (born 1959), and my first Paul Newman movie was the above mentioned “Butch Cassidy”. When my dad was working those old grindhouses in the early 70’s, I remember one movie it seemed we always played was “Cool Hand Luke”. After that I was hooked on Newman. I agree with you about the future as well. Time will tell.

kencmcintyre on September 30, 2008 at 5:28 am

My first Paul Newman film was Towering Inferno. I saw it at the Towne 4 in Egg Harbor NJ in 1974. Newman was the architect and Steve McQueen was the fire chief. Other eclectic casting was Fred Astaire as a con man and OJ Simpson as a security guard who rescues a kitten.

I recommend “Nobody’s Fool” (1994), which is said to be the closest Newman ever came to playing himself in a film.

bruceanthony on September 30, 2008 at 6:28 am

I am a little bit older than all of you and my first Paul Newman movie was “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” also starring Elizabeth Taylor. I also loved “The Long Hot Summer” also starring his wife Joanne Woodward. My other favorite Paul Newman movies were “HUD”,The “Hustler”,“Hombre”,“Cool Hand Luke”,“The Sting” and “The Verdict”. In 1967 a remember a poll that said Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor were the worlds biggest Box Office Draws at the time. Paul Newman was an actor movie star who was the real deal. I don’t think he cared for todays cinema when the big films are popcorn movies. Im sure glad I was born in the early 1950’s and saw movies at movie palaces with such actors as Paul Newman the likes of which you will never see again.brucec

smoothie on September 30, 2008 at 8:51 am

Yes indeed,Brucec.i’m 1953 vintage. The fact that we were able to see the first runs AT theatres which are at the heart of this very website is crucial. With some of the research sites here in England, might anyone like me to draw up a selection of pictures of long-gone cinemas actually showing a Newman film at the time? Maybe we could set up a Flickr group with movie theatres showing particular films? On my regional local history site in Birmingham England ( there is a Paul Newman thread with my (profile name, Richie) postings. You don’t need to register to view comments, but you do need to do so to make replies.

SethLewis on September 30, 2008 at 9:38 am

Newman also did a number of films – Hud, Hombre, Cool Hand Luke, Slap Shot, Butch Cassidy – where he came off as an anti-hero setting the stage for the much more ethnic Pacino types and Nicholson. Times change so do our stars and leaders. Let’s celebrate the ones we lose like Newman and appreciate the ones that still have some hopefully great work ahead of them – Tom Hanks largely as a producers, Denzel Washington think Training Day, American Gangster and the relatively underrated Antwone Fisher, Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man, even Matt Damon…And not forget that some genuine movie stars – I said stars and not great actors like Richard Gere, Harrison Ford can still give us moments of pleasure on the screen when they choose the right material and we bother going to the movies

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 30, 2008 at 7:58 pm

I saw Paul Newman on stage in “Picnic”, a new play by William Inge on pre-B'Way tryout at the Plymouth Theatre in Boston. This was in February, 1953. The play was directed by Josh Logan and featured Ralph Meeker, Janice Rule, Eileen Heckart, Kim Stanley, and Peggy Conklin. It had real scenary, not the stylized stuff today, designed and lit by Jo Mielziner. We sat in the first balcony, and the house was full. Newman was a fine actor; he would have been about 28 years old at the time. In those days there were touring shows and pre-Bway tryouts booked solid from Sept. to May every season. Not the slim pickings of today. The Plymouth later became the Gary movie theatre and was demolished circa-1980. Paul Newman was also a generous philanthropist.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on September 30, 2008 at 10:04 pm

I was born in 1954, and my first Paul Newman film in a theater was one you won’t hear too much about: “What a Way to Go” (1964). But he was so funny in that, as the ultimate egomaniacal artist. I may watch it again tonight. Heck, I’d even like to see his first film, “The Silver Chalice”, again – too bad it’s not available on DVD. That’s the performance he apologized to the public for in a newspaper ad!

Last night I watched him in one of his real heavyweights, “Cool Hand Luke”. He is amazing in that movie. For some reason I can’t imagine any other actor, past or present, playing that particular role as well as he did.

moviebuff82 on September 30, 2008 at 10:07 pm

The only movie that I saw starring Paul Newman was the oscar winning “The Sting”, on VHS from a local library. It was a decent movie, most notable for its memorable theme song “The Entertainer”. He was pretty good in that one. I also like his contribution to the food business with his Newman’s Own line of popcorn and drinks.

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on October 1, 2008 at 6:26 am

When I was stationed in San Francisco in 1966-67, I paid a visit to the cavernous and awesome Art Deco Paramount Theatre in Oakland while it was still operating as a cinema.

Paul Newman was playing a miserable cowboy in “HUD” and driving furiously about town in a fabulous old 1958 Cadillac. This car so impressed me that I bought one the next day!

Paul… Thanks for all of your numerous and unforgettable acting talents. No one will ever fill your boots… NO ONE!

WayBackWhen2008 on December 15, 2008 at 8:46 am

I am your age LMHG and I agree with your commentary. Have a child of my own (older than yours).I can appreciate what you mean about having their own legends. Right now I am hoping Will Smith will still around and I think he has is a contender as a legend, as well as Ashley Judd, Jake Gylenthal,Ryan Gosselin, Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix. I have faith more legends will emerge. I am also somewhat concerned that there won’t be great directors. My first Paul Newman movie was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, thanks to dad. I think I saw it in a theatre. Saw a few others like Color of Money. He was one of the greats and will be truly missed. RIP Mr Newman

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 13, 2010 at 1:43 am

“The Verdict” was his best work.Should got the Oscar .I quit watching the so called Academy Awards especially when someone named Ben Kingsley beats Paul Newman,they outta all turn their Academy Membership in cause they don’t know anything about acting.

TLSLOEWS on June 13, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Great actor and race car driver.R.I.P.Paul.

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