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Paul Newman

September 27th, 2008 by · 39 Comments



There will be countless tributes to Mr. Newman in the media over the next few weeks, and I’m sure they’ll cover his life well. I just wanted to say as someone who (believe it or not!) loves movies:

Paul Newman was an old-fashioned movie star in the best sense possible. He was already approaching middle age when I was a kid, but even then he was the gold standard for Handsome, Charismatic Guy onscreen. Still is, it seems.

But… the man was a great actor as well, with an extra talent for picking good movie roles. For those younger visitors here on the Rifftrax Blog who have only seen him in recent movies — or never — OR who only think of him as the salad dressing guy — do yourselves a favor sometime and watch “The Hustler,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “Hud,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Sting” or “The Verdict” (a later Newman movie, but one of his best performances).


He was also a good family man, and a generous guy who did lots of unsung charity work… as well as the more visible, grocery-based stuff. I spent a semester as a guest professor at Kenyon College in Ohio, where Newman graduated from college after serving in WWII. I was surprised to learn that their great theater program there was due in no small part to Paul Newman’s generosity.

Newman also loved racing cars. And drinking beer, bless him.

It’s not a tragedy when an 83-year-old man dies, but it’s a mournful occasion for family, friends, and — where applicable — admirers. And it’s certainly an appropriate time to remember the life lived.

Mr. Newman, you lived a very good life. Thanks for everything, sir.

(…And yeah, I like the salad dressing too.)


ADDED Sunday 9/28: This quote from “Cool Hand Luke” is perfect for Mr. Newman. If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s basically a prison drama… but also it’s a great movie about non-conformity, the human spirit, and redemption. All that good stuff.

This line came from the movie’s screenwriters, Donn Pearce and Frank R. Pierson, and it’s spoken by his friend in prison after Luke’s death. Seems to capture Paul Newman’s life perfectly, right up until his final bout with cancer. It never really beat him:

    “He was smiling… That’s right. You know, that, that Luke smile of his. He had it on his face right to the very end. Hell, if they didn’t know it ‘fore, they could tell right then that they weren’t a-gonna beat him. That old Luke smile. Oh, Luke. He was some boy. Cool Hand Luke. Hell, he’s a natural-born world-shaker.”

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