Paul Newman, 83, the actor and sex symbol who surged to stardom by playing loners as well as criminal and moral outlaws -- anything to downplay his astonishing looks -- died of cancer yesterday at his home in Westport, Connecticut.
Newman was an Academy Award-winning actor and acclaimed director, and he used his fame to propel his political activism, race car driving and philanthropy. He donated all the profits from his Newman's Own food company -- more than $150 million -- to charities and social welfare organizations.
Brooding and sinewy, with luminous blue eyes and a husky voice, Newman resembled a preppy Greek God in his earliest screen roles. He quickly rebelled against conventional casting that tried to turn him into a pretty-boy alternative to Marlon Brando and James Dean. He became known as an introspective and nonconformist performer -- a perfect anti-hero idol for the socially rebellious 1960s and 1970s.***
Esquire Magazine's wonderful article, "The Graceful Exit." An excerpt:
A look at his altruism, philanthropy, here.
He is the fierce-faced punk at the Actors Studio in New York City in the early fifties , perched backward on a folding chair, one leg up, glowering toward the front of the room.
The rest of the class sits back, listening, at apparent ease in their dark suits and dark ties, their skirts and blouses.
The tough guy's wearing a white T-shirt tight enough to show the curve of his lats, his smoke cupped in one hand, his jaws clamped so hard that the muscles in his cheek quiver. No one in a room of sixty people could look more alone.
You'd never guess that the tough guy's a Shaker Heights Jew, that his father and uncle founded the largest sporting-goods store between New York City and Chicago, that he has a degree from Kenyon and a year in the master's program at the Yale School of Drama.
You'd guess that he'll get laid: He's rock-hard, ice-cool, gorgeous. But you'd never guess that he'll ever amount to squat.
He has drunk, fought, and fucked his sorry way through two colleges. He has been tossed off the football team at one of them, and he has made the front page back home in
after duking it out with the cops. Cleveland
He has survived three years of World War II in the Navy Air Corps -- two as a radio gunner on a torpedo bomber in the South Pacific -- and he has exhausted his GI Bill tuition benefits.
He has managed a golf range.
He has sold encyclopedias door-to-door.
He has been a bane and a grim disappointment to his father, who has died.
He has failed at the family business, which has now been sold.
He has a pregnant wife -- his first wife, an actress he met doing summer stock in
-- a two-year-old son, a sixty-dollar-per-month apartment, and $250 in the bank. Wisconsin
The first time he goes up in front of the class to do a scene in workshop, the tough guy gets creamed. Basted. Slammed.
Not that he doesn't know a few things. He knows that James Dean, six years younger than he is, is out in
already. He knows that Brando, one year older -- Marlon, the conquering hero, visits the Studio once in a while to hone his chops and pluck some city chicken -- has already been anointed a god of stage and screen. Hollywood
He knows that he's not so quick a study, that he has neither their emotional equipment nor their savvy, that he can't gnash and explode like Brando or melt down glistening like Dean. They are astonishing actors, those soft boys.
He knows that he was very good, very smooth, selling encyclopedias. He can do that. Or maybe he'll finish at Yale Drama and teach.
He knows that he is out of other options.
He is a fuckup -- this, too, he knows. He has made aimless failure look easy, which it's not -- not if you're from
. It took a dogged lack of commitment and a tenacious aversion to hard work. It took a whole lot of beer and fuck-you. It took a tough guy. Shaker Heights
And this -- the sum of his feckless boyhood -- this he can use. He will use it. He will use what he has. He has nothing left to lose or to hide, nothing and no one to hide from -- himself least of all.
Doomed to failure? Okay, boys. Let's fail as gracefully as we can.
The future? Fuck it.
This, it turns out, is his first gift to the craft, what he can reach for at the bottom of the trick bag of his soul, what's left when everything else has turned to dry suds.
Look, Ma, look, Pa: I don't give a fuck.
An epiphany of sorts, and a paradox, because, in fact, he gives a fuck. He does not want to be a lightweight, which is what he knows he has been so far. He remembers his father during the Depression, when the store was out of cash, taking the train to
and returning with the promise of hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of sporting goods from Spalding and Wilson, because his father was a man of integrity and the companies knew they'd get their money. His father was not a lightweight. His father traded newspapering for the cold hell of retail to put a house around his family, to secure a future for them. Chicago
When his father died in 1950, at the age of fifty-seven, the son went back to
and took his place behind the counter, selling roller skates and baseball mitts and sleeping bags, and he felt a stone in his chest where his heart had been. Cleveland
Behind the counter and in the account book, the tough guy found more shadows and ghosts than he could bear.
He didn't last a year before deciding it would be better just to go, to go and keep going.
He's going to be an actor. *** (Continued at above url.)
We say "there will never be another one like him." But from the way Paul Newman lived, he showed us all what an imperfect human can accomplish within just one lifetime. That legacy will live on in those who choose to grab a piece of it, and live.
(Initial video from "Tas2387" on YouTube. He says:
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