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Legendary actor Paul Newman dies at age 83

www.legacy.com Modified: September 27, 2008 at 1:18 pm •  Published: September 27, 2008
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WESTPORT, Conn. (AP) _ Paul Newman, the Academy-Award winning superstar who personified cool as an activist, race car driver, popcorn impresario and the anti-hero of such films as "Hud," ''Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money," has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

In May, Newman had dropped plans to direct a fall production of "Of Mice and Men," citing unspecified health issues.

He got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world's most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers. He was nominated for Oscars 10 times, winning one regular award and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including "Exodus," ''Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," ''The Verdict," ''The Sting" and "Absence of Malice."

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting."

He sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood's rare long-term marriages. "I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?" Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in "The Long Hot Summer," and Newman directed her in several films, including "Rachel, Rachel" and "The Glass Menagerie."

With his strong, classically handsome face and piercing blue eyes, Newman was a heartthrob just as likely to play against his looks, becoming a favorite with critics for his convincing portrayals of rebels, tough guys and losers. "I was always a character actor," he once said. "I just looked like Little Red Riding Hood."

Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon's "enemies list," one of the actor's proudest achievements, he liked to say.

A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for "The Color of Money," a reprise of the role of pool shark "Fast" Eddie Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film "The Hustler."

Newman delivered a magnetic performance in "The Hustler," playing a smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats — played by Jackie Gleason — and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel — directed by Scorsese — "Fast Eddie" is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but rather an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.

He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 "in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft." In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film "Road to Perdition." One of Newman's nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories. (Jack Nicholson holds the record among actors for Oscar nominations, with 12; actress Meryl Streep has had 14.)

As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama "Empire Falls" and providing the voice of a crusty 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, "Cars."

But in May 2007, he told ABC's "Good Morning America" he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. "I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to," he said. "You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me."

He received his first Oscar nomination for playing a bitter, alcoholic former star athlete in the 1958 film "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Elizabeth Taylor played his unhappy wife and Burl Ives his wealthy, domineering father in Tennessee Williams' harrowing drama, which was given an upbeat ending for the screen.

In "Cool Hand Luke," he was nominated for his gritty role as a rebellious inmate in a brutal Southern prison. The movie was one of the biggest hits of 1967 and included a tagline, delivered one time by Newman and one time by prison warden Strother Martin, that helped define the generation gap, "What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate."

Newman's hair was graying, but he was as gourgeous as ever and on the verge of his greatest popular success. In 1969, Newman teamed with Redford for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," a comic Western about two outlaws running out of time. Newman paired with Redford again in 1973 in "The Sting," a comedy about two Depression-era con men. Both were multiple Oscar winners and huge hits, irreverent, unforgettable pairings of two of the best-looking actors of their time.

Newman also turned to producing and directing. Sign the guestbook

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