Paul Newman: A Life
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Paul Newman, the Oscar-winning actor with the legendary blue eyes, achieved superstar status by playing charismatic renegades, broken heroes, and winsome antiheroes in such revered films as The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Verdict, The Color of Money, and Nobody’s Fool. But Newman was also an oddity in Hollywood: the rare box-office titan who cared about the craft of acting, the sexy leading man known for the staying power of his marriage, and the humble celebrity who made philanthropy his calling card long before it was cool.
The son of a successful entrepreneur, Newman grew up in a prosperous Cleveland suburb. Despite fears that he would fail to live up to his father’s expectations, Newman bypassed the family sporting goods business to pursue an acting career. After struggling as a theater and television actor, Newman saw his star rise in a tragic twist of fate, landing the role of boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me when James Dean was killed in a car accident. Though he would joke about instances of “Newman’s luck” throughout his career, he refused to coast on his stunning boyish looks and impish charm. Part of the original Actors Studio generation, Newman demanded a high level of rigor and clarity from every project. The artistic battles that nearly derailed his early movie career would pay off handsomely at the box office and earn him critical acclaim.
He applied that tenacity to every endeavor both on and off the set. The outspoken Newman used his celebrity to call attention to political causes dear to his heart, including civil rights and nuclear proliferation. Taking up auto racing in midlife, Newman became the oldest driver to ever win a major professional auto race. A food enthusiast who would dress his own salads in restaurants, he launched the Newman’s Own brand dedicated to fresh ingredients, a nonprofit juggernaut that has generated more than $250 million for charity.
In Paul Newman: A Life, film critic and pop culture historian Shawn Levy gives readers the ultimate behind-the-scenes examination of the actor’s life, from his merry pranks on the set to his lasting romance with Joanne Woodward to the devastating impact of his son’s death from a drug overdose. This definitive biography is a fascinating portrait of an extraordinarily gifted man who gave back as much as he got out of life and just happened to be one of the most celebrated movie stars of the twentieth century.
From the Hardcover edition.
circumstances, painted a picture of a warm relationship between father and son. But a lot of people knew better, and Scott was offered up by the press as another of those children of fame who lived in pain and had recently died young: Jonathan Peck, Dan Daily III, Diane Linkletter, Diana Barrymore, Edward Robinson Jr., Jenny Arness—an awful tally. The next day Newman and Joanne drove to Cleveland, where they had a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner with Theresa Newman, who was still in the house on
remember when Scott first came to acting class. He seemed so self-assured—and that smile! But what I always remember is the nervous laugh behind the smile. He was always competing with his father’s image—lover, actor, race-car driver. In Scott, the panic was always right there, and he was always trying to find a solution. It was so powerful he didn’t know how to help himself. I don’t think I ever saw him jump into a pool; he always did triple flips. Scott didn’t die because he was a
the rest of his life, he would reckon himself to be five foot ten or eleven and to weigh in the neighborhood of 160 pounds. (Decades later he claimed his navy uniform still fit him.) And he learned a brief and slightly painful lesson about matters of the heart. He’d been involved with a girl back in Ohio—“very attached” is how he put it—and about midway through his service he got sucker-punched. “There I was,” he remembered, “in the middle of the Pacific, and I opened this letter that went
in front of me and not in back of me.” WHEN IT appeared in theaters in October 1986, The Color of Money was received warmly by both critics and audiences. Grossing more than $50 million, it was Scorsese’s biggest hit to that time, and it was a media sensation. Life magazine put out two different covers with a photo of Newman and Cruise lying on a pool table head to head, their bodies pointed in opposite directions; each half of the run of issues had a different actor face up and the other
adjusted to my husband’s status as a superstar and a sex symbol,” she would say. “The only place I’m a sex symbol is at home, and I’m very lucky that my husband thinks I’m sexy. I don’t worry about women who come on strong with him, because I know what he thinks of them.” Five years after they’d spent the shoot of The Long, Hot Summer in constant communion on the streets of Clinton, Louisiana, they were still that way. “They’re the most hand-holding couple I ever saw,” said a longtime friend, and