All right Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up

28 September 2008

The Reluctant Icon-In Rememberance, Paul Newman

" I was part of my times", Paul Newman to Barbara Walters,2008

"I'm a great believer in luck..good luck, bad luck, medium luck... my interest in philanthropy is a composite picture of all that..what could be better than to hold your hand out to people less fortunate than you are..."

He believed it was all about luck. He was an Actor with a capital A. He was a Director, an Activist, an extraordinary Philanthropist, a passionate and successful Race car driver("Racing gives me grace", he would say)...and Yes he was a Legend...a word that we toss around too lightly and one that would certainly make him cringe. He defined Cool. He was sexy, seductive, tough, charming, funny,smart...perfect even in his flaws.

Butch Cassidy screenwriter William Goldman said of him "...I don’t think Paul Newman really thinks he is Paul Newman in his head.” He spent most of his career avoiding being "Paul Newman"...the "Paul Newman" the world created was not how he led his life and he would credit his success to "Newman's luck".

'If my eyes should ever turn brown, my career is shot to hell," he once said. Yes, there were those penetrating, unsettling, pools of blue that were so much a part of his icon status. He was considered the most beautiful man in film...and he was, but he hated it.

He wore dark glasses and often went out in public in disguise to avoid attention. If someone asked him to take off his glasses to see "those eyes" he would reply"..If I do that my pants will fall down"

Paul Newman Lived his life. Everything he attempted he did with drive and focus. He never wanted or sought the blinding fame he achieved but he maintained his own style and his mystique through decades in the spotlight. Paul Newman lost his very private battle with cancer Friday and suddenly we all feel old. Though his loss is not a shock given the reports of his declining health, it is still hard to believe that this gorgeous lion of the acting world is gone...he always seemed indomitable, and certainly on film he always will be.


Paul Newman once said ...acting is like letting your pants're exposed."
He began his career at the Actor's Studio and got his first major role in Somebody Up There Likes Me playing Rockie Graziano, a role James Dean was slotted to play and he died in a car crash before shooting began. The rest is screen history-characters and films that will be benchmarks of Hollywood history and tutorials in acting style...Hud, Fast Eddie Felson, Brick, Butch,Harper, Cool Hand Luke... He didn't want to be a star, his celebrity he felt cut off his freedom to do the work he wanted to do ...the fact that he was able to dismiss his star status and do great work on screen, stage and behind the camera illustrates Paul Newman,his commitment to doing it his way.

The Sting
Eventually he became more comfortable in the skin of his fame and learned to make it work to create change and do good."...I didn't turn in my citizenship card when I got my screen actors card..." he said. He was one of a select group of actors who marched with Dr. King and in 1968 he campaigned for Eugene McCarthy resulting in finding himself on Nixon's enemies list.

1958,DNC Convention
In 1982 he started his salad dressing business as a joke since his neighbors all clamored for his homemade recipe.
Like everything he did with both fun and determination the company turned a profit in the first year. The business expanded to sauces, popcorn...resulting in over $250 million dollars donated to charities. In 1988 the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps,named from Butch Cassidy's gang, was founded to welcome children with cancer and blood related illnesses and provide them with a place to be just kids. There are now camps all around the world providing fun and a sense of normalcy to ill children.

“I wish I could recall with clarity the impulse that compelled me to help bring this camp into being. I’d be pleased if I could announce a motive of lofty purpose. I’ve been accused of compassion, of altruism, of devotion to Christian, Hebrew, and Moslem ethic, but however desperate I am to claim ownership of a high ideal, I cannot. I wanted, I think, to acknowledge Luck; the chance of it, the benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others, made especially savage for children because they may not be allowed the good fortune of a lifetime to correct it.” - Paul Newman.

The extraordinary thing about Paul Newman is that his life lived in the spotlight outshone that light. He was not the cardboard star and the footprints he left on this world were not simply made of the iconic celluloid images we cherish. His legacy is his work- Not just as an actor, whose gifts we may never see again, but also as a man who recognized that what he saw as his luck could bring joy and hope to so many whose lives were met with simple bad luck. Thank you Paul, I hope you know the impression those eyes left on the world inwhich you acted.

To make a donation to the Hole in the Wall Camps visit Hole in the Wall Camps