We lost a great one today. By we, I mean anyone who values artistry from their film actors, elegance from their movie stars and class from their celebrities. Paul Newman was the perfect blend of grace and strength, on screen and off, and industry, audience and humanity have lost a true legend.
Paul Newman was so much more than a pretty face. And he was a pretty face. I mean he was so good looking he could make Brad Pitt weep. And those blue eyes! Like Steve McQueen and James Dean, Paul Newman made the women fall in love with him and made the men want to be him. He was the epitome of cool, smooth and sexy, yet maintained an accessibility and relatability that McQueen and Dean never quite achieved. They were aloof, loners who broke all the rules. Newman was the charismatic rebel who made everyone feel like they were his best friend.
What Newman did with his celebrity was groundbreaking. In the Me era, he established Newman’s Own, a company to make salad dressing, then branched out to other food stuffs, donating 100% of the profits and royalties (after taxes) to charity. Over $220 million so far has been donated to charity through Newman’s Own. He has established camps for kids, endowed educational trusts, and donated to countless other charitable organizations. It seemed he understood what it meant to give back.
But what Paul Newman truly gifted to us, the movie audience, was his work. And that is what we are lucky to have and will always have. Here are his most notable films that every cinema fan should see to appreciate the work of Paul Newman:
The Hustler (1961)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Absence of Malice (1981)
The Verdict (1982)
The Color of Money (1986) (sadly, his only Oscar for Best Actor)
Road to Perdition (2002)
But, for me, Paul Newman’s greatest performances were in three films, and these are perhaps three of the greatest performances in perhaps three of the finest films of all time. Because if you are a lover of great cinema, a lover of great performances, and a true believer in the art of film, storytelling and the power of narrative drama, there is no way you could or should live your life without seeing
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
The Sting (1973)
For all the words and flowery praise that you will hear in the next couple weeks about the great Paul Newman, all the retrospectives and montages you will see flashed across your television screens, newspapers and magazines, none will ever come close to being a proper memorial to the man who would be best honored simply by taking in one of these films.
And be grateful.