The last time we saw Paul Newman we really didn't see him.
He did the voice of Doc Hudson in Cars. Newman died on Friday at 83 and America lost an acting treasure.
Younger readers may not know much about Newman or his life. The acting great was one who walked the talk but didn't feel the need to talk about the walk.
Newman was married for 50 years to Joanne Woodward. They founded Newman's Own food line and to date have donated $280 million to charity. It was superstar behavior from a guy who didn't seem to need or want the accolades. Like his Cool Hand Luke character, Newman was always low-key cool. He seemed as ordinary as the guy next door. So real was Paul Newman that you just knew he was one of us. If he was yourneighbor, you know warm summer evenings would be spent gabbing over the fence about the day's events or grabbing a beer on the porch.
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The secret of Newman's acting success was that the camera loved him. He was the most comfortable actor in history on camera. He was so at ease that he glowed with a personal charisma that made him likable even when his character wasn't. The only modern-day actor that can claim Newman's brand of camera savvy is Denzel Washington.
Early in his career Newman was as much sex symbol as actor. Hud, The Hustler and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof had steak and sizzle. Newman delivered the goods, and unlike Marlon Brando and other 1950s acting hunks, he didn't let superstardom go to his head. He continued to stretch and grow as an actor.
His last great movie was Nobody's Fool in 1994, and to this date it remains in the top five of my all-time favorite movies. I shared that sentiment with writer/director Robert Benton in an interview. I mentioned how easy it was to watch Newman and how much I hated the end of the film because I liked those characters and wanted to stay involved in their lives.
Nobody's Fool garnered Newman an Oscar nomination, but the Oscar was taken home by Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump. In retrospect, the academy made a very bad decision. He won his only acting Oscar for The Color of Money in 1986, but Newman's skill level was Oscar-caliber in every movie. The win was for reprising the role of Fast Eddie Felson from 1961's Hud. It is just one of the films where many critics think Newman should have taken home the award.
Newman's middle period included such great films as Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting.
He did grab a last Oscar nomination for Road to Perdition in 2002 but did very little on camera work in the last decade of his life. We missed him then. We now will miss him forever.
What is your favorite Paul Newman movie and why?