Editorial: Film icon Newman both anti-hero and hero

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

In a modern Hollywood populated by celebutantes and bad reality TV stars, Paul Newman inhabited a different orbit. The venerable actor was a member of an ever-dwindling fraternity whose members got their start in the 1950s and '60s and had the stamina and self-awareness to stick around for decades.

Newman died of cancer last week at 83. Sad to say, Hollywood just got a little less cool.

Newman's on-screen characters epitomized unflappability. He was the rebel, the outlaw, the prisoner, the con man. He was the tough guy who bucked authority and looked good doing it. Who could forget how cool his egg-scarfing stunt seemed in "Cool Hand Luke"? How many movie fans later tried, unsuccessfully, to pull off such an ill-advised bet with their own pals? No one could pull off cool like Newman.

His filmography is too long to list, but notable titles include "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "The Hustler," "Hud," "The Sting," "Slap Shot," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Verdict," all of which stand the test of time, as did the actor himself. He was the anti-hero to the end, playing a grizzled crime boss in 2002's "Road to Perdition."

But in real life he was another kind of hero, bucking the Hollywood odds with a marriage of 50 years to actress Joanne Woodward; a guy's guy who liked racing cars as much as making movies; a generous entrepreneur who started his own line of organic foods (we recommend the Fig Newmans) and gave the profits to charity, some $250 million. His Newman's Own brand and his Hole in the Wall camps for sick children may end up rivaling his film legacy.

"We are such spendthrifts with our lives," Newman once told a reporter. "The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I'm not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out."

Not a bad epitaph, that.

Peoria Journal Star