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September 28, 2008 |

By TK Burton | Miscellaneous | September 28, 2008 |

Paul Newman, at 83 years old, died of cancer today. It’s very rare that an actor’s death has much of an affect on me — it’s difficult for me to drum up sympathy for wealthy strangers that I’ve never seen be themselves. Newman is one of the exceptions — he’s one of the first actors that my father, himself a film nut, made a point of noting to me. I still remember my introduction to him when I watched The Color of Money when I was 11 years old. My dad, upon learning of my ignorance, promptly went on a Paul Newman binge, and within months I’d seen Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Slapshot, Fort Apache the Bronx, and The Sting.

In the 20+ years since then, Newman continued to distinguish himself as one of the legends of our time, a strong, handsome, talented star who had a style that we envied and a smile that we melted at the sight of. He played some of the most iconic roles you’re likely to see — Butch Cassidy, Fast Eddie Felson (The Hustler, The Color of Money), Governor Earl Long (Blaze), and of course, the eternal rebel Luke. He’s one of the rare actors who continued to amaze and amuse right to the very end of his career. Even if the films weren’t always terribly successful, he would still manage to be the very best part of it. His last live action feature film (he also provided voice work for Cars later), The Road to Perdition, received mixed reviews — personally, I thought it was a marvel of atmosphere and cinematography coupled with great performances, that somehow lacked cohesiveness — but there’s no questioning that Newman was wonderful in it. You’ll always remember some of his greatest moments — the jump with Sundance, fighting as Rocky Graziano (Somebody Up There Likes Me), burning up the screen with Elizabeth Taylor (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), or refusing to back down (not to mention eating all those damn eggs) in Cool Hand Luke.

I’ve managed to catch several more of his movies since that fateful day in 1986, and I’ve never been disappointed by any of his roles. Added to the fact that his philanthropic works were inspiring and far beyond the average Hollywood star’s efforts (a few months ago, he donated the entire value of Newman’s Own — $120 million — to charity), and you can’t help but feel love and respect for the man. Better yet, he was generous without being obvious about it. Sure, you see his face every time you buy salad dressing, but you never saw him holding press conferences talking about what a super guy he was. In interviews he was all twinkling eyes and sly smiles, even as he got older and slower.

Paul Newman’s acting career started in 1952, and spanned over 50 years. It’s an achievement worth noting. His contributions as an actor, as a humanitarian, and as a man will always be remembered.

Hell, He's a Natural-Born World-Shaker

Paul Newman, 1925-2008 / TK

Miscellaneous | September 28, 2008 |

TK Burton is the Editorial Director. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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