Friday, April 22, 2016

Aaahh... I Feel Like a Newman...

Surprise, surprise! Things have once again become overwhelming in The Underworld. Almost two weeks ago, one of our fellow employees was escorted off the premises by the police, not in handcuffs, mind you, but nevertheless dramatic. And guess who gets to do her job as well as my own?  That's right! So as I mire through the scads of work that keep pouring my way, I'm going to provide a photo essay, which is always a little easier than an in-depth written post. It's really shocking, when you think about how much I've babbled on here, that there has never been a tribute to Paul Newman, who is easily one of my favorite actors. I have included him in quite a few posts along the way, but today it's all his. I hope you like the pictures I'm sharing of Mr. Blue Eyes. And stay tuned near the end for a hooty Underworld Extra bonus photo!
Born on January 26th, 1925 in an upscale suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, Newman took an early interest in acting and performed in school plays from age seven on.
The world nearly lost Newman in 1945 at age twenty before he'd ever made his mark. As a radioman-tailgunner in U.S. Navy planes during WWII, his aircraft was prevented from joining others on a carrier due to the pilot's ear infection. A few days later the ship was the target of kamikaze attacks and the rest of his unit was decimated.
Newman, majoring in drama and economics, married first wife Jackie in 1949 and by 1951 was living in New York City attempting to act for a living. He worked in live TV to supplement his income, but landed a hit in 1953 when the Broadway play Picnic, with a can't miss cast, ran for well over a year.
Newman had been thisclose to winning the role of James Dean's brother in East of Eden (1955), but instead had to settle for a cinematic debut in The Silver Chalice (1954) opposite Pier Angeli and Virginia Mayo. His first (and last!) experience in a period epic was a huge disappointment to him and it was two years before he worked on the big screen again.
Loathing the material and feeling foolish in his togas (not to mentioned embarrassed by his legs which, in retrospect, really aren't bad!), he famously took out an ad years later apologizing for his performance in the film when it ran on television. Meanwhile, he continued to act on TV in many programs including a notable color, musical rendition of Our Town (1955) which also starred Frank Sinatra as The Stage Manager and Eva Marie Saint as Emily.
He also worked on Broadway again in the successful drama The Desperate Hours, which ran for half a year. Newman's return to the big screen was facilitated by the premature death of James Dean. He inherited Dean's role in the bio-pic of boxer Rocky Graziano, Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), this time winning acclaim for his work.
Now underway in earnest with a film career, he could back off of television appearances as he appeared in a string of movies including The Rack (1956), The Helen Morgan Story (1957) and Until They Sail (1957.)
Big changes in his personal life were on the way as well. He ended his marriage to Jackie and wed Joanne Woodward, who'd been in Picnic with him (as an understudy.) The two proceeded to work together on many a film project - the first being The Long, Hot Summer (1958) - and were married until Newman's death fifty years later.
Another role he inherited from James Dean was The Left Handed Gun (1958) about western outlaw Billy the Kid.
A huge career stride came, however, with the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) in which he played an alcoholic ex-football player mourning the death of his best friend and anticipating the death of his overbearing father.
Complicating things further was his wife (Elizabeth Taylor) who wanted to have his baby, but was getting nowhere. The story, wrought from the Broadway play, danced around a homosexual subtext due to the constrictions of the time. He earned an Oscar nomination for his work, though it went to David Niven for Separate Tables. To my mind, there has never been a more beautiful cinematic couple than Newman & Taylor. They are just gorgeous together.
In an entirely different direction, he also did the comedy Rally 'Round the Flags Boys in 1958, costarring Woodward, but also featuring their friend Joan Collins. Comedy and Newman were never very easy bedfellows and his were rarely big hits, but he did know how to cut loose and have fun on occasion such as in this drunken scene.
He may even have taught the saucy Collins a thing or two if this pose indicates anything!
In 1959 he did The Young Philadelphians, playing an aspiring lawyer. Here he gets the once over from older woman Alexis Smith.
And in this shot, she closes in for the kill. His real love interest in the movie, however, was played by Barbara Rush. In 1959. Newman went back to Broadway for a third success, this time in Sweet Bird of Youth, which ran for just under a year.
1960 brought the slick soaper From the Terrace, with Woodward, but also the epic Exodus, opposite his costar from Our Town Eva Marie Saint, all about the emergence of the country of Israel. Newman was half-Jewish by birth on his father's side.
To be perfectly honest, though I always found him attractive, Newman's body type is not the kind I am typically drawn to. I am unlike most people in that I don't really like to see the muscles through one's torso. Today that is the standard and anyone without it is labeled "fat," but I always felt like I was seeing someone's insides when I could make out every ripple. LOL!
Speaking of ripples and seeing things from the inside on the outside, Joanne seems to have discovered something in Paul's trunks here. I'm surprised this one made it to the cover of a magazine with no censoring or airbrushing!
1961 brought another key career role, that of Eddie Felson in The Hustler, a pool shark drama costarring Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott. For this, Newman was again Oscar-nominated, but the statuette went to Maximilian Schell for Judgement at Nuremberg.
His other film that year was Paris Blues, with wife Joanne as well as Sidney Poitier.
in 1962, he was permitted to recreate his stage role in Sweet Bird of Youth along with Geraldine Page, though his love interest, initially portrayed by Diana Hyland, was essayed in the film by our beloved Shirley Knight.
One more of his key roles, this one being one of the most iconic of his, was Hud (1962.) He played a man that he himself considered deplorable, yet audiences gravitated to him, many finding him sexy and some even considering him a role model of sorts! The Oscar went to his recent costar Sidney Poitier for Lilies of the Field.
One of the best things about The Prize (1963), a mystery involving the Nobel prize, was the sequence in which he had to infiltrate a meeting of nudists (!) and wore only a towel for a lengthy period of time. His other movie that year was the colorful romp A New Kind of Love, opposite Woodward.
1964's What a Way to Go had him appearing opposite Shirley MacLaine as one of her bevy of husbands, each one dying and leaving her a wealthy woman. His character was a modernistic painter living in Paris.
Unquestionably, my favorite part was when he and MacLaine took part in a romantic montage during which they lollygagged in a large bathtub, then a smaller bathtub, then a washtub before finally showering together!
His career continued to chug along with movies such as The Outrage (1964), in which he was a Mexican bandit and rapist, Lady L (1965) opposite Sophia Loren, and Harper (1966), with him portraying a rather down and out detective surrounded by an all-star cast. In 1964, he and Woodward headed to Broadway for the cat burglar comedy Baby Want a Kiss, which hinted with bisexuality, but it was only a qualified success at best.
He was selected, along with Julie Andrews, to star in Alfred Hitchcock's 50th film Torn Curtain (1966), but the movie and the pairing did not exactly elicit fireworks. Nevertheless, I like both of these two so much I still like to watch the movie every now and again.
After Hombre (1967), still another important role came with the prison comedy-drama Cool Hand Luke (1967.) I like this foreign poster art.
His role as the star-crossed prisoner and victim of circumstance landed him yet another Oscar nomination, but that year the award was won by Rod Steiger for In the Heat of the Night.
Newman continued starring in movies such as The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968) and Winning (1969), but also directed Woodward in the acclaimed drama Rachel, Rachel (1968.) The movie was even nominated for Best Picture, but lost to Oliver!
Winning awakened in him a love of car racing and he continued to get behind the wheel for many a risky competition, much to his wife's dismay.
In 1969, he paired up with Robert Redford for the blockbuster Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was a monumental success that put him into the top tier of movies stars of the time.
With some less successful/memorable movies in-between such as WUSA (1970), Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), Pocket Money (1972), The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) and The Mackintosh Man (1973), Newman and Redford teamed up again for another smash hit, The Sting (1973.)
Thus Newman was a top box office draw when he was selected to star in Irwin Allen's mammoth production of The Towering Inferno (1974), the story of a fire in the world's tallest building which required the historic cooperation of two major studios in order to be made. Costarring with him - with staggered billing and the same number of lines down to the sentence - was Steve McQueen, who'd once had a bit role in Newman's Somebody Up There Likes Me and had been eager to match the star's success ever since.
This movie was my introduction to Paul Newman as my seven year-old face sat rapt with attention for 2-1/2 hours in a theater seat as he struggled to save various inhabitants of The Glass Tower. From then on, he would be my ideal movie leading man.
That his love interest was Faye Dunaway, in a goddessy, gossamer dress, only cemented my fixation on the movie. While Newman and Taylor remain my idea of the screen's most beautiful couple, Newman and Dunaway represent a meeting of my two favorite "contemporary" actors (now vintage, since the movie and I are growing ever older!) and are my favorite couple, period, despite a limited amount of screen time together.
Newman was at that sweet stage when his name on a project meant that it would be made and he could balance fun movies that he wanted to so with more serious fare that expressed his personal sentiments. He also continued his ever-increasing interest in auto racing.
After The Drowning Pool (1975), the sequel to Harper, a cameo in Silent Movie (1976) and Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976), he enjoyed the popular success of the (then) raunchy hockey comedy Slap Shot (1977.)
The perplexing arctic mystery Quintet (1979), a box office bust, was followed up by a picture he owed producer Irwin Allen from their prior Inferno contract. When Time Ran Out... (1980) was a dismal failure that threatened his position as a movie star to contend with.
Fortunately, he was back on track the very next year with two well-received films, the crime drama Fort Apache the Bronx and Absence of Malice, in which he played a man tormented by the journalistic endeavors of reporter Sally Field. The second film won him his first Oscar nomination for acting in fourteen years. This time he lost to Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond.
The Verdict (1982), about an alcoholic lawyer trying to redeem himself, truly seemed as if it would be the one which finally won him an Oscar as Best Actor. However, it was still not to be as Ben Kingsley took home the prize for Gandhi. In 1986, the Academy bestowed Newman with an Honorary Oscar for his body of work, likely feeling - as he did by now - that a competitive award would never come his way for whatever reason.
In a bizarre turn of events, however, the very next year brought forth a sequel to The Hustler in which Martin Scorcese directed Newman to an acclaimed performance as his character from a quarter of a century before. The Color of Money (1986) resulted in a Best Actor Oscar for Newman.
Newman continued to work in projects that appealed to him, still working with Woodward whenever possible, and also working hard on a charitable company, Newman's Own, that he had begun back in 1982 with a bottled version of a salad dressing he'd perfected at home. The staggeringly successful enterprise branched out into other food products and has raised over $430 million for a wide variety of causes since its inception.
In 1992, Newman reunited with Elizabeth Taylor to present that year's Best Picture Oscar (to Silence of the Lambs.) I have always wished that the producers would do more of this with the presenters, such as pairing up Beatty & Dunaway, Douglas & Close, Streep & Redford - WHOEVER - instead of trotting out flavors of the month playing dress-up, awkwardly delivering horrible scripted banter. Look how fun it was the year Fred & Ginger got back together momentarily. These are moments.
So I promised to provide a little bonus to my faithful readers. Ever since I first saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1988 (which was brought to my attention by - of all things - Michael Jackson's video for "Leave Me Alone"), I was captivated by the look of the film and its stars. Years later in 2001, a local theatre group was doing the show and by then I'd been acting for several years. I thought, "Wow! I should audition for Gooper!" thinking I'd have no trouble at all portraying an unloved, misfit son.
You can imagine my surprise when the director wanted me to play Brick and would not take no for an answer. It wound up being, if not the most-fulfilling role of my on-stage career, then certainly among the top three. It also gave me a momentary, albeit far-removed, brush with my adored Paul Newman in some way. I didn't (couldn't!) be like him in the part, but my costar and I found our own groove and it was a big success with all four leads winning awards for "Excellence in Acting."
Now back to the real star at hand... Newman was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1994 for his incredible charity endeavors. Then with 1994's Nobody's Fool, earned yet another Best Actor nomination (which went to Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.) A Supporting Actor nod came later for Hanks' movie Road to Perdition (2002), but that went to Chris Cooper for Adaptation. That same year, he headed back to Broadway to perform as The Stage Manager in Our Town. Paul Newman, a lifelong smoker, died of lung cancer in 2008 at the age of eighty-three. He left behind a massive legacy of screen work and social work and will always have a special place in our heart at Poseidon's Underworld.
The End

6 comments:

normadesmond said...

and i played the bob redford role in, "barefoot in the park."
isn't it wonderful?

Gingerguy said...

I should know that when I come to the underworld there is always a surprise in store. LOL that picture of Paul and Joan, maybe he did teach her a thing or two. And the shot of you as Brick is pretty fab. I would love to be able to reenact my favorite movie scenes but something tells me stage acting is a bit more complicated so will leave it to you professionals. Paul was so beautiful and a really good actor, so sleazy in "Sweet Bird" and I also love "Harper". "A New Kind Of Love" is a bit weird, and Joanne looked miscast in it, maybe it was fun to make for them? I have never seen either "Lady L" and "the Verdict" so now they are on my Netflix list. I really love the Oscars photo, they were both gorgeous and that doesn't seem that long ago. I not only love his Hollywood career but he was and is a personal hero. My nephew attended his Hole In The Wall Camp for several successive Summers and had the time of his life. Paul posed with all the children individually. I treasure that photograph to this day. He really did good with his fame and left the world a better place, and luckily for us left a lot of film to enjoy. Great post.

Roberta Steve said...

Wow! Getting a big dose of Paul Newman was just what I needed today. Clearly one of the handsomest movie stars ever, he was also one of the finest actors too. While I adore the young Paul's movies, and the box office triumphs like Butch Cassidy, Towering Inferno and The Sting, my favorite Newman film is The Verdict. He doesn't play a version of the super cool anti-hero he was known for (Cat, Sweet Bird, Hustler, Hud, Luke, Sting, etc) He plays an alcoholic loser on the brink of desperation. While he still looks good, there is a sadness, shame and weatheredness that creeps onto his face and into his eyes. Really really wonderful film acting. The scene he has with Charlotte Rampling near the end of the movie is so raw and real people in the theatre where I saw it gasped.

Just an FYI: Slap Shot was filmed in my hometown of Johnstown, PA. Paul was lovely to the local citizenry, and surprisingly small and lean. A real class act. A few years later the movie All the Right Moves was filmed in Johnstown too. It started Tom Cruise, who hadn't yet become a star. Complete opposite experience than the one with Newman. Hope Cruise learned a thing or two from Paul when they shot The Color of Money.

Thanks for including the photo of you as Brick. After reading your blog for all this time I had conjured an image of you in my mind. Now I can put a real face behind the writing!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

Wait a minute, this is the short and easy version of a post?! Seems pretty exhaustive to me. I often forget how much I like Paul Newman until I see him again on screen in pretty much anything, even his duds.

I've probably seen Cat, Hud, Butch Cassidy, and The Sting the most of his movies. What a face!

A said...

Thanks Poseidon!

I enjoyed the whole thing (and picked up just the briefest hint of Eve Harrington in you post about your Cat on a Hot Tin Roof role). A great read and wonderful pics!


A

Poseidon3 said...

Gingerguy, that's so neat about your nephew going to the Hole in the Wall camp and how active Newman was with the kids. I had a female acquaintance once who met Newman at a charity event and he took her for a whirl on the dance floor. Needless to say it was unforgettable and she said he was so nice. I never could get through "A New Kind of Love" but I did enjoy Woodward as a champagne-blonde bitch in "From the Terrace. "Lady L" is one I still need to see, but I don't think Paul was very fond of the movie in the end.

Roberta, I also gasped in shock during "The Verdict!" So unexpected. I think seeing that movie was when I really decided that he was an actor to be reckoned with. Most of the things I'd seen of his to that point were lighter or less-gritty things. How amazing that he was in your town filming (and that he was so kind and accessible to people!) The Cruise thing doesn't surprise me at all...

Bless you, Armando! LOL Well... You know, my posts used to be so brief and then I began to get longer and longer. Now I can never seem to keep them reined in even when I try to! I must tell you that this one began with about 35 pictures, but as it was going along, I started to fear that this person or that was going to come along and say, "No 'Color of Money?'" or "Shame on you for omitting 'The Sting!'" or what have you... I never claim to be 100% inclusive, but there's always some shitheel (probably one who's never run a blog for six months, much less more than half a decade) to come around and point out an omission! I never mind corrections, because I do strive for accuracy, but those other types of things can be trying. Anyway, thanks much!

A, ha ha! I'm no Eve Harrington! I couldn't begin to take over the place of a fabled star. But around these here parts I do occasionally feel like Margo Channing, with actors younger than me nipping at my heels! Glad you enjoyed this post.