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Monday, September 29, 2008

Cool Like Newman... Reflections Upon an Icon

Rest In peace, Paul Newman

Paul Newman made his transition over the weekend. He was 83. When a legend passes, I’m sure it leaves many people who've followed their careers a bit sad or reflective. I feel some of that, but not knowing Mr. Newman personally, and having real loved ones pass in my family, it doesn’t feel quite the same on the human heart.

Paul Newman is dead, but his films will live on to inspire and entertain for many years to come. I remember watching his movies as a kid. A program called Million Dollar Movie played in the afternoons after school, and not being a kid who lived for cartoons, I’d view those old films. Newman starred in many of them. He soon became an iconic presence in my mind. He was lanky and cool, surly and smooth, and sometimes even a little rough around the edges. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hud, The Hustler, these and others became staples in my filmic memory.

My personal favorite of all his films would have to be Cool Hand Luke. It was the essential Newman part, the classically handsome rogue, the smart-ass, authority-bucking anti-hero who becomes a real hero by displaying the size of his spirit and determination. But the end of the film, damn near every macho prisoner, and a couple of the guards nursed man-crushes on him and that “Luke smile.”


Yeah, Paul Newman made many great films and memorable, no doubt. Maybe that’s what most people will remember about him. But his biggest contribution to the world was not his features, his fabled blue eyes (which apparently were colorblind), or the fact that he raced cars when he was well into his early 80s.

Paul Newman had a wonderful heart. He used his fame beautifully. He understood the importance of capturing the world’s attention wasn’t purely about self-garnishment. He didn’t do the Hollywood thing. He lived modestly (only owned one suit) and remained with the same woman, the equally talented Joanne Woodward, for fifty years. He used his mind beautifully. Real Life always took priority over his career. At the height of his fame, when it could have jeopardized his career, he marched with Dr. King. He was a liberal and a proud one. He used his political savvy to show that he cared about the world around him. He used his wealth beautifully. His greatest achievement was in founding the organization called The Hole In The Wall Camps, and making his own products of Lemonade, Popcorn, Dressings and raised, to date, 250 million dollars for kids with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

That’s huge. That’s bigger than any movie. He used his life as a true and shining example of what one man can accomplish with his time here.

So those who are old enough or aware enough to know who and what he was, you can grieve his passing if you must. But, I’m just glad such a man lived.

Rest In peace, Paul Newman.

One Love.