Remembering Paul Newman with a movie marathon

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman were married at El Rancho in Las Vegas on Jan. 29, 1958.

This Friday, Hollywood lost one of its greatest figures and longest burning stars, actor and director Paul Newman. The famed thespian and philanthropist died at his home in Connecticut at 83-years-old.

With Hollywood’s fickle tastes, maintaining movie star status for even a decade is an impressive feat, but Newman produced nuanced, inventive performances over the course of five decades, winning an Oscar and garnering nine other Oscar nominations in the process. More important, however, was the affect that Newman had on his fans, of which there are many. Known for his likeable demeanor, humor, unmistakable intelligence and mesmerizing blue eyes, Newman was one of a select group of actors who manage to continue their craft well passed leading man age. He was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role as recently as five years ago for Road to Perdition.

In memory of one of this century’s enduring legends, the Weekly shares our picks of some of Newman’s best work. Rent a few DVDs, pop some Newman’s Own popcorn and enjoy the talents of a man who helped define what it means to be a star.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) Poised between the classic, traditionalist Westerns that came before it and the more troubling, complex deconstructions of the genre that would follow, Sundance found Newman at his most charming and wry, as a world-weary outlaw who shined brightest in the face of insurmountable odds. – Josh Bell

The Color of Money (1986) It is easy to dismiss The Color of Money, the only film for which the great Paul Newman received an Academy Award for acting (he earned two other honorary Oscars). We think of it as a charity Oscar, the kind the Academy gives to great artists who got shafted for years despite doing work that should have been honored. Newman, the wisdom goes, should have won for The Hustler, or Hud, or Cool Hand Luke, or The Verdict.

Fine. But there’s an irresistible scene in this sequel to The Hustler that’s a priceless instance of Newman’s immense talent. His aging Fast Eddie Felson is stakehorsing Vincent, a raw and talented hothead played by Tom Cruise. As Eddie shows Vincent the ropes of hustling pool, he slowly finds his purpose renewed and starts to get his own game back into shape. In one scene he takes on another young player, Amos (an early role for future Oscar winner Forest Whitaker). For a while Felson’s feeling fine and making money, but gradually, as the young kid keeps winning, Felson realizes he’s been had. “You a hustler, Amos?” he finally asks, hard.

In a smooth bit of patronizing, Amos offers not to take the money he’s won; says he doesn’t want to cause any bad feelings.

“Fuck you, kid,” Eddie responds. “Double it again.”

There are all kinds of intense emotions blooming off Newman—anger, disgust, weariness, pride—but there’s nothing volcanic on his face. In fact, the actor seems barely to move, his mouth a just-open slit, his eyes knowing. His expression is resolutely even, even while he conveys a man on the cusp of regaining or losing his manhood. —T.R. Witcher

The Sting (1973) While many of Newman’s films were well-received, The Sting was a smash hit, bringing in more than $160 million and winning seven Academy Awards including the award for Best Picture. Playing Henry Gondroff, the master con man steering a revenge plot against a mob boss alongside the inexperienced grifter Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford), Newman is a classically lovable underdog - unflappably cool, effortlessly charming, and slick as they come even while going toe to toe against the underworld’s worst. An underlying humility rounds out the performance.

“He’s not as tough as he thinks,” Hooker says, full of youthful bluster.

“Neither are we,” Gondroff replies.

- Sarah Feldberg

Slap Shot (1977) Back in 1977, Slap Shot helped break the mold in terms of goofy sports movies that documented the successes of lovable losers. It paved a good swath of the path for flicks like Major League and The Mighty Ducks, as well as several awful Bad News Bears sequels down the road.

And at the center was Paul Newman, playing the biggest loser of them all - Reggie Dunlop. Dunlop was the epitome of a washed-up, crafty veteran just trying to further a career in the minor league hockey ranks. He hit below the belt, he lied, he blackmailed, and you still wound up loving the captain of the Charlestown Chiefs by the time the credits rolled. Very few actors could pull off something like that, but Newman was one of them.

Sure, the Hanson Brothers are what most people remember about Slap Shot. And how couldn't they be? They still make appearances in full uniform to this day. But it was Newman ... er, Dunlop ... who got them to play 'old-time hockey. 'Eh? - Ryan Greene

Cool Hand Luke (1967) "What we've got here is a failure to communicate." The line made it into the American Film Institute's 100 greatest movie quotes (#11), and the role of Luke solidified Paul Newman as the rebel character that he went on to play in so many other films, as well as earning him an Oscar nod. - Matt Toplikar

Nobody's Fool (1994) Sully Sullivan in Nobody’s Fool was one of Paul Newman's last great roles. Newman played a rascally old alcoholic with a smart mouth and a carefree attitude. At 69-years-old he slipped into the character very naturally and injected a lot humor into the film while showcasing his ability at playing things subtle. – Matt Toplikar


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