Saturday, September 27, 2008


We have lost one of the greatest actors of our time. Paul Newman “died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport,” according to the Associated Press. He was 83 years old.

Newman’s presence on the screen was magnetic, whether he was performing in Exodus (1960), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Sting (1973), The Verdict (1982), Road to Perdition (2002), or ... well, the list could go on and on. As Britain’s The Guardian notes, “He appeared in about 60 films over a period of 50 years.” In two of those, Newman played Ross Macdonald’s fictional private eye, Lew Archer (renamed Lew Harper for Hollywood): Harper (1966, adapted from 1949’s The Moving Target) and The Drowning Pool (1975). And in a third film, the 1998 noir thriller Twilight, he played another ex-cop turned private detective, Harry Ross, who could have been Archer/Harper at an older age. (That film, by the way, also featured James Garner, whose creds in the fictional P.I. field are equally strong.)

In addition to his screen work, the handsome, blue-eyed Newman was famous for his charitable contributions and his political activism. A strong and determined liberal, he wound up on Richard Nixon’s “enemies list,” supported Ned Lamont’s candidacy in the 2006 Connecticut Democratic Primary race against turncoat Senator Joe Lieberman, contributed infrequently to The Nation, and would no doubt have loved to be around to see an end to George W. Bush’s presidency and the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. (Fingers crossed.)

This is a day for remembering all of Paul Newman’s fine work, in various arenas. But tonight will be spent at my house with Harper and Butch Cassidy in the DVD deck.

SEE MORE: For your viewing entertainment, here’s the trailer for Harper. And to watch a couple of clips, click here and here.

READ MORE:Paul Newman, 83, Magnetic Hollywood Titan, Dies,” by Aljean Harmetz (The New York Times); “More Than Just a Pretty Face,” by Stephanie Zacharek (Salon); “Paul Newman, 1925-2008,” compiled by Dana Cook (Salon); “Remembering Paul Newman, the Philanthropist,” by Saturday Night at the Movies,” by Taylor Marsh; “Actor Paul Newman Dies at 83,” by Lynn Smith (Los Angeles Times); “The Bluest Eyes: The Pleasures of Watching Paul Newman,” by Dana Stevens (Slate); “Newman’s Own Politics,” by John Nichols (The Nation); “The Graceful Exit,” by Scott Raab (Esquire).


pattinase (abbott) said...

A man you could love on many levels. The world isn't the same.

Anonymous said...

HARPER is the film that made me a P.I. writer, made me decide at 15 to write for a living. So I owe my career to Paul Newman as much as I do to Ross Macdonald. But when someone dies at 83 after a long and productive life, why is that a bad thing? Let's celebrate his life, watch all the films he's left us--not to mention popcorn and pasta sauce--instead of bemoaning the fact that he's gone. Let's give a big thank you that he was ever here.

Corey Wilde said...

For me it will be The Sting and Nobody's Fool.

I will argue with anyone crazy enough to do so that Newman's body of work places him, at the very least, as one of the top three American film actors ever, right alongside Bogart and Tracy.

Anonymous said...

One of the few actors that you have to think hard to come up with a bad movie and he kept his integrity up until the end.

Anonymous said...

His politics were mean and somewhat clueless but despite some rough patches in the late 50s and late 70s I liked most of his work.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Contrary to the above comment by "Anonymous" (and why won't people use their real names when bashing others about politics?), I didn't see anything "mean" or "clueless" about Paul Newman's political positions. As The Nation observes (, "He was dedicated to civil rights, women's rights and gay rights, committed to ending the nuclear arms race, and determined to elect opponents of war and militarism." All good things, as far as I'm concerned. Yes, Newman made a mistake in 2000 by supporting Ralph Nader over Al Gore, thus helping to hand the White House over to the disastrously incompetent George W. Bush, but I'm not going to hold that against the actor forever. And he was reportedly a "maxed-out contributor to the campaign of Barack Obama for president."

Far from being politically clueless, Newman seems to have been particularly aware of what was going on in the country. We could sure use more such intelligent folk.