Saturday, September 27, 2008
He Was Legend ...
"There is a point where feelings go beyond words. I have lost a real friend. My life — and this country — is better for his being in it." — Robert Redford
In a week dominated by the increasingly tense presidential election - and, oh yeah, the American financial system coming to the brink of collapse - the death of a movie star would seem to pale by comparison. But Paul Newman, who passed away yesterday of cancer at the age of 83, was not just a movie star. He wasn't even just the movie star of his generation, though he most certainly was. Newman was indeed a superlative actor, as evidenced by his three Academy Awards and numerous other honors and accolades. And no one - not even straight men - could discount his potency as a male sex symbol, perhaps because he was much more than a pair of piercing blue eyes. And he was much more than that. It is telling that his death is getting major play on ESPN because of his longtime passion for auto racing, including his partial ownership in an IndyCar team and his own prowess behind the wheel, much of that done after he turned 60. He was one of the leading philanthrapists in Hollywood, before it was the "trendy" thing for stars to do. Newman raised more than $250 million for charity through his Newman's Own line of food products and established the Hole in the Wall Camp for seriously ill kids. Indeed, one of his three Oscars was a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his charitable endeavors. (One of his most treasured fan letters was from a man who complimented him - for his tomato sauce. "My girlfriend mentioned that you were a movie star," the foodie wrote. "If you act as well as you cook, your movies should be worth watching.") And Newman was a political activist before it was trendy for stars to do that sort of thing. He often said that one of his greatest personal achievements was ending up on Richard Nixon's enemies list. Throw in his 50-year marriage to Joanne Woodward, and Newman's was a life well lived.
Newman's resume - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Exodus, The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, Slap Shot, Absence of Malice, The Verdict, Nobody's Fool, Road to Perdition, and on and on - wasn't half-bad, either. Go out and rent one or five of them this weekend.