Sunday, August 10, 2008
There is no celebrity calamity in my recent time--and I am including Stanley Kubrick--that has affected me more deeply than learning of Paul Newman's recently announced, soon-to-be fatal bout with lung cancer. It's difficult to imagine a world without Hollywood's greatest humanitarian and actor, but I suppose it's a feat we're all going to have to achieve. Today, it was announced that soon we will be without the director of Rachel Rachel, Sometimes A Great Notion, The Effect of Gamma-Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Harry and Son, and The Glass Menagerie, and the indelible star of Hud, Harper, Hombre, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, Nobody's Fool, The Hustler, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, The Towering Inferno, The Left-Handed Gun, Cars, Road to Perdition, Slap Shot, Twilight, Pocket Money, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Buffalo Bill and the Indians or: Sitting Bull's History Lesson, Absence of Malice, Sweet Bird of Youth, Paris Blues, Winning, Fort Apache The Bronx, The Long Hot Summer, WUSA, The Drowning Pool, Torn Curtain, and one Oscar-winning performance in Martin Scorsese's Hustler sequel The Color of Money, and his crowning cinematic achievement: his role as Frank Galvin in Sidney Lumet's The Verdict.
It's mind-boggling what this man has done for the craft of acting. It's possibly more mind-boggling (or at least surprising) to note what he's done for the act of eating with his unassailable line of food products--salad dressing, lemonade, cookies, popcorn, salsa, and the like. And absolutely drop-dead astounding is the fact that he's contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to various charities around the world.
Paul Newman is not only a film figure. He is a good man. A good husband to his wife of 50 years, actress Joanne Woodward (they are the entertainment's industry's most perfect celebrity couple). And a good father to his children.
Filmwise, you could always ensure that, no matter the quality of the movie, Newman's presence would make it all the better. And that's taking into account the quality of his choices has been, more often than not, superlative.
I refuse to look at any pictures of the sickly Mr. Newman. I prefer to remember his visage as the vital, stunning actor who helped usher in a new style of performance--one that changed the craft forever.
He has displayed integrity and class in everything that he has attempted. I will mourn the day, truly, that he is absent from this realm.
My heart goes out to him, Joanne, and his family. I am hoping against hope for a miracle. Because no one deserves one more than Paul Newman.