Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Remembering Paul Newman

There are those actors in Hollywood that no matter what you see them in, it could be the biggest piece of crap ever, but that actor just seems to shine right through it like it was effortless. That was Paul Newman. Now bear with me, I know it may sound strange, but it is certainly a compliment. If you take the very best actor/actress from the beginning of their career to the end of it you will find a whole host of terrible films. I haven't seen all of Paul Newman's films as of yet but I have seen very many, I've seen some good and some bad and it doesn't matter because every time I see those blue eyes and that cocky grin a smile sets on my face and there is no way I'm leaving the room until the movie is finished. That my friend is more than just a movie star, that is a legend.This past Friday September 26th 2008 Paul Newman lost his battle to lung cancer at the age of 83. Paul Newman was a professional and a humanitarian, I've had his Newman's Own Italian dressing and as well as being quite good it also makes you feel good buying it because you know that 100% of the proceeds go to charity. These things are obviously important because it defined Paul Newman's character and his personality but it was his skill as an actor to bring the diversity, humor, thoughtfulness and pure emotion to every role he took on. The oldest of his films that I have seen so far, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), where he played smart ass Brick Pollitt. Now when I saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof I had already seen about a dozen Newman films and I couldn't say I loved the film but I certainly enjoyed his back and forth with Elizabeth Taylor. He just had that great connection with his co-stars that it would enhance the performances around him making it so much better. Next on my list was Exodus (1960), I love author Leon Uris, my favorite book was Mila 18, but Exodus came first and nobody played a bad ass soldier type better than Paul Newman as Ari Ben Canaan. The Israeli Freedom Fighter determined to give his life to bring his people to the promised land. I loved the movie but man, what an abrupt ending. Next up was the Hustler (1961), Fast Eddie Felson, the pool shark always getting himself into trouble. I really dug the Hustler but honestly I think I liked Fast Eddie even more in the sequel directed by Martin Scorsese 25 years later called The Color of Money (1986). Paul Newman won the Oscar for Best Actor, it was the one and only time he would win the top prize. But throughout his career he was nominated a total of 9 times for the golden man. He had memorable turns in films like Hud (1963) and of course Cool Hand Luke (1976). Now I know I haven't seen Hombre (1967) in it's entirety but I'm getting it on Netflix very soon. (My Dad loved Hombre, so don't tell him I haven't seen it fully yet.)Now from '69 right up through the 90's I'd have to say was the man's golden period. Starting with what has to be one of my favorite films of all time Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) written by one of my favorite writers William Goldman and the icing on that cake was Paul Newman as Butch. I could probably quote that entire damn movie, his lines especially, in my sleep. "I have vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals." Perfect, just perfect the chemistry between Newman, Redford and Katharine Ross. It still amazes me that this movie tanked at the box office when it first came out, what the hell were people thinking? When I was a kid I wanted to be many things a cop, a cowboy, Han Solo and especially Butch Cassidy. Sure it was great to be the crazy hero running after the enemy with guns blazing, but Butch and Sundance were clever, they did the same thing with style and brass balls. Not to mention they took on the entire Bolivian army, that is bad ass.From Butch we go to the lecherous Judge Roy Bean and his drunken escapades with a giant Grizzly Bear. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) was an amusing tale about the real life Judge who controlled a small western town with an iron fist. Then there was the thriller The Mackintosh Man (1973) which was ok, not Newman's best. In '73 he made my second favorite from the Newman collection The Sting. He reunited with Reford to make this con-job caper that is always a joy to watch. Newman plays washed up grifter Harry Gondorff as he tries to pull a fast one on Robert Shaw. I must have seen that one at least fifty times. Newman was also in The Towering Inferno (1974), The Drowning Pool (1975), and the funny Hockey comedy Slap Shot (1977).Newman showed up in a Coen Brothers film The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) as grumpy Sidney J. Mussburger, it was so good it was almost Cheneyesque-- yeah, yeah sure, sure. He should have won his second oscar in Nobody's Fool (1994) but he lost to Nigel Hawthorne (The Madness of King George). Then you have Twilight, (1998) a murder mystery of sorts and Road to Perdition (2002) where he plays a gangster father figure, who is so endearing and charming, that when he does some pretty awful things later in the film you still find yourself feeling for him. Newman was a one of kind; actor, race car driver, humanitarian, father and a husband and so much more, he will be greatly missed.I also did not get a chance two months ago to do my tribute to Issac Hayes and Bernie Mac who unfortunately died just days apart. Bernie Mac died August 9th due to complications from pneumonia. Issac Hayes died August 10th from a stroke. They were both legends, Bernie Mac in comedy and Issac Hayes as a musician. Just hearing the soundtrack to Shaft puts a smile on my face. Bernie Mac was always reliably funny from one of his early appearances on Friday (1995) to the Ocean's 11 flicks and his small role as Bobby Bolivia in Transformers (2007), he will surely be missed. I really am looking forward to seeing their final performances in the upcoming Soul Men also starring Samuel L. Jackson.

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