Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman passed from this life this morning, in California, losing a long battle with cancer. Newman was 83. He is survived by his longtime wife, actress Joanne Woodward, and several children.
Although his first box office hit was in the movie adaptation of Tennesse Williams' play, A Streetcar Named Desire, the first film I ever saw Paul Newman in was one of his biggest early hits, Hud, in which he played a hard-drinking and partying, wild young Texas rancher, with Knoxville, Tennessee's own Patricia Neal in the female co-starring role. It was a memorable performance that I've never forgotten since and he earned the Oscar he got for that role. I knew then, as I know now, that the man was a consummate actor and a master of his trade. Newman went on to prove that, in later years, with such hits as The Cincinnati Kid, Cool Hand Luke, Winning, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting (both of which he co-starred in with Robert Redford), and The Color of Money, for which he won his final Oscar. Every movie the man ever played in made money, a feat that few other actors could brag about. Newman was very shrewd at picking his pictures and roles. And he played them to perfection, always.
Paul Newman married actress Joanne Woodward (who also won an Oscar, for her role in All About Eve) in the 1950's, if I remember correctly, and neither of them ever looked back. Theirs was one of the happiest and most stable marriages in a community where divorces flow like water and couples change partners like people change their socks. Woodward co-starred with her husband in the auto-racing film, Winning, in 1969.
It was that film, shot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that launched Newman into a second career -- becoming an auto racer in real life. He actually drove a racing car in the film himself, under the coaching of professional drivers. He became interested in the sport and launched his own race team a few years afterward. He competed in various sports car events and even finished well up in the standings on several occasions. After he quit his active driving, he still remained active in the sport, co-owning a CART Indy racing team, which featured racing father and son legends Mario and Michael Andretti. They won many races for their team and Michael Andretti came within three laps of winning the Indianapolis 500 in the late 1980's, losing the race when an engine problem forced him to retire his car.
In the 1990's Paul Newman also started his own business, one for which he is probably best-known to the younger generation. Having been a gourmet cook for years, he gathered his own recipes and created Newman's Own brand, a line of salad dressings that he had concocted himself over the years. It was an instant hit, and the company remains in business to this day. I have sampled a couple of his dressings and can report that they are quite good indeed, living up to the advertising and promotion (although a bit pricey.) But, you get what you pay for, huh??
To say Paul Newman will be missed is an understatement. I missed his movie performances for years, since he retired from acting, and had to get my occasional "Newman fix" from television re-runs of his classic films. You still saw him hanging around the race tracks sometimes, especially at Indy, for the 500, but not as much as in the past. But, his food products, as well as his films will be his legacy forever. A good, decent man and a wonderful actor has left us and I am saddened by his passing.
Think I'll go to the store, buy some salad greens, and a bottle of Newman's Own dressing, and watch one of his old movies tonight.