Turner Classic Movies
Newman, Paul
Written by Diana Saenger   


Participating in school plays, Newman had an interest in acting even as a young child in Shaker Heights, Ohio, the Cleveland suburb where he was born and grew up. His parents, Arthur and Theresa, ran a sporting goods store. Newman found his draw to performing at the age of seven when he appeared in a grade school play of Robin Hood.

BORN: January 26,1925

BIRTH PLACE: Cleveland, Ohio

He graduated high school in 1943, tried his hand ringing doorbells as an encyclopedia salesman, and then enlisted in the Naval Air Corp hoping to be a pilot. When he was ousted because of color-blindness, he joined the regular navy and served in the South Pacific during World War II.

Back home he attended Kenyon College in Ohio where he studied literature and acting. He earned a BA in 1949, got married the same year to Jackie Witte and found small roles in summer stock companies including the prestigious Woodstock Players. Witte gave Newman a son, Scott, and two daughters Susan and Stephanie.

When Newman's father died in 1950, the young actor faced an important decision: pursue his acting career or take over the family business.

"That was probably the best sporting goods store west of the Appalachians," recalled Newman with a hint of pride in his uplifted chin. "During the depression, 85 percent of the sporting goods stores went out of business. In the middle of the depression, my father came to Chicago and consigned $100,000 of goods each from Spalding and Wilson. Those companies knew that if he sold a baseball glove for $4.25, there would be a check in the mail to them for what they were entitled to. I learned a lot from that. He survived because his reputation was impeccable."

Newman didn't take over the store but parlayed his father's tenacity and dependable upright trust, respect and admiration into a long and successful career. He moved his family to New Haven, Connecticut, and enrolled in Yale University's graduate acting program.

Not finding the artistic levels he yearned to climb, the Newman's moved to New York City where Paul tackled small roles on the Broadway stage and TV and was eventually accepted to the famous New York Actor's Studio.

"Almost everything that I learned about being an actor came from those early years at the Actor's Studio," he said. "There's not a performance that I can look at until after the late '70s with any sense of satisfaction."

Newman's first stage appearance was in Picnic (1953), and his first feature was the biblical film The Silver Chalice (1955), about the commissioning of a silver cup with the faces of the disciples and Jesus around its rim. Newman was so embarrassed about the movie; he took out ads in the Hollywood trades apologizing for his performance.

Hollywood, however, saw something in this classically handsome actor, and in 1954 Newman signed a contract with Warner Bros. Pictures. Not quite a household name by 1956 when Newman played boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me, people took notice of the young actor with the riveting blue eyes. somebodyuptherelikesme100.jpgBy the time he finished Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and The Long Hot Summer, Newman had a following. He also had a new love interest - his co-star on Summer - Joanne Woodward.

After divorcing his wife in 1957, he married Woodward on January 29, 1958 and the same year received an Academy Award Best Actor nomination for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Throughout his career Newman continued to earn the kind of respect that he admired so much in his father. Many more awards and nominations would come over the years. His cunning as a pool shark in The Huster (1961) and roles in Hud (1964), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Rachel, Rachel (1968), Absence of Malice (1981), The Verdict (1982), Color of Money (1986) and Nobody's Fool (1995) all drew Newman actor nominations.

It didn't win an award but in 1969 Newman and Robert Redford teamed up for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a film hailed as a classic and still talked about today. butchcassidy100.jpgNewman won an Oscar for his reprisal as a pool shark who saved his best strokes to teach a young protégé (Tom Cruise) in The Color of Money (1986). Having been eluded by the statue six times prior, Newman did attend the awards and missed out on accepting the statue.

When asked about his acting abilities, Newman said, "What you're able to achieve on the screen has nothing to do with you. The only thing is sometimes you pick up certain mannerisms from characters that you play and they become part of the way you present yourself. The only two things that ever stuck to me were unfortunately from "Rocky Graciano." I never used to spit in the street, and I was with Rocky for about nine weeks before the picture began filming and now I spit in the street, which sickens my wife. I never used to swear or use any kind of foul language. Now, it's not worth being in the same room with me. And it's funny, of all the physical or attributes that could have stuck to me, that those were the two that stuck the strongest and the longest."

While plugging along with his film career, Newman focused his passion on danger and adventure. He took a serious interest in auto racing while filming Winning in 1968. In 1983 he joined forces with Carl Haas and his championship car team. In 1995 Newman and his co-drivers won the International Motor Sports Association GTS-class. He was 70 years old at the time.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science presented Newman with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1985 for his "memorable and compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft." In 1990 People magazine listed Newman as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world.

In 1992 he and Woodward were both recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors, and Newman was in attendance in 1994 when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science presented him with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. In 1995 Empire magazine chose Newman as one of 100 Sexiest Stars in film history. Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra are the only actors to win an Actor Academy Award, an Humanitarian Academy Award and a Special Honorary Academy Award.

Awards aside, events in his personal life have had far more impact on Newman. The Road to Perdition was less about explosions and blood baths, and more about relationships between fathers and sons. paulnewmanmrp.jpgNewman admitted the role caused him to reflect on his own relationships - that with his father and his only son who passed away in the 70s. "The loss was a long time ago. I don't think about it a lot, but it obviously has impacted me in other ways," he solemnly commented.

Newman fans never seem to get enough of the popular actor, but fans might be surprised that he mesmerizes A-list actors such as Tom Hanks as well.

"On our first scene together (in Perdition) there was a moment when I just walked into the shot, and we looked at each other in the eyes," explained Hanks. "The first take was like. I'm looking at Paul Newman in the eyes on the movie and now I've got to go get in a car with Paul Newman in a movie.' I had a little bit of an out of body experience there but that was the only one."

Other co-stars and directors feel the same adoration of Newman's talent. "Paul works in very subtle ways," said Linda Fiorentino, who worked with him in Where the Money Is. "He's a genius in that way: you think he's doing nothing, and then you see the film and you're like, Wow, I don't remember him doing that.' Because he was doing it while you weren't looking."

Kevin Costner, who starred opposite Newman in Message in A Bottle (1999), keeps a poster of Cool Hand Luke hanging in his production office. While filming Message, Costner said about the poster, "That should tell you something about my admiration for his career ... I've modeled a lot of the things I've done after him without knowing him or having worked with him."

Robert Redford once said about Newman, "He has the attention span of a bolt of lightning."

Many times Newman is referred to as an icon. But ask him how he feels about that word, and he replies, "People say I'm an icon. I don't. My grandchild does not think I'm an icon. He's three years old and he came to the door the other day and said, "I am obsessed with the Yellow Submarine.' What will he say when he's six?"

Enjoying grandchildren is a pleasure Newman shares with his wife of 47 years. Of their daughters, Elinor (Potts), Melissa and Claire, one has dabbled in acting as has Susan Kendal, his daughter by Jackie Witte.

Woodward, a noted actress in her own right, is the artistic director of the Westport Country Playhouse, and after a 35 year absence from the theater stage, the reason Newman agreed to perform there in Our Town for which he was nominated for an Emmy and a Tony Award for Best Actor in the Revival of a Play.

What's the secret to his and Woodward's marriage I asked Newman. "I don't know what she puts in my food," he replied smiling.

Newman's entrepreneurial foray was never planned. Earlier in his life, Newman, his family and dear friend and author A.E. Hotchner, made their own dressing and delivered it to friends and neighbors during the Christmas season. By 1982 as more and more requests came in, they decided to market the product and called it Newman's Famous Oil & Vinegar Salad Dressing.

Today the Newman's Own line includes steak sauce, many salad dressings, pasta sauces, salsas, popcorn and lemonade. He gives 100 percent of the after-tax profits to charity. To date he has donated more than $125 million to educational and charitable purposes such as the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a summer camp for terminally ill children in Ashford, Connecticut; "Discovery," a program for inner city kids; the Scott Newman Foundation for drug and alcohol abuse and education, and drought relief in Africa.

Although Newman decided to use his products for charity, he doesn't just slap a label on any product; he is a sticker for top-quality products that contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Whenever he's out and about, he's always asked which is his favorite and is not shy about his reply.

"My favorite flavor is the Family Italian Recipe," he said. "The Washington Post did a marvelous test of all the salad dressings, and we were the only dressing in the top category."

Continuous commercials aside, he is serious about helping mankind. So does Newman feel charity is a responsibility?

"This is not a celebrity issue. This is a political issue and the concept that a person who has a lot holds his hand out to someone who has less. I am confounded at the stinginess of some institutions and some people. Aristotle said the greatest government is the government that has the least number of people on each end. So, I don't think that there's anything exceptional or noble in being philanthropic. It's the other attitude that confuses me."

Newman's possible last film projects include Empire Falls, an HBO comedy he filmed with his wife, Joanne Woodward in 2005, and the animated Cars in 2006 in which he provided his voice.

Newman's final word on acting? "I don't take much of it seriously. I really don't, and that's all I have to say about that."

And then comes those commercials again . . . "About my spaghetti sauce. Have you ever tried to add bacon and green olives...?"



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