Actor, entrepreneur, humanitarian, professional racing driver… Paul Newman was one of the few actors to effortlessly make the transition from the Hollywood studio system of the fifties to the independent film model of the 60’s.
Cool Hand Luke
Newman sings ‘Plastic Jesus’, it’s not a monologue really, but he delivers it like it is. Luke is the irrepressible rascal who goes up against the prison authorities with the notion that they can break his body but not his spirit. Just as Luke questions his faith in God, he receives an answer in the devastating news that his mother is dead. His fellow inmates give him the space to let the news sink in. Every criminal has a mother.
The part of cowboy Cassanova Hud got Newman his first Academy Award. Very few leading men of that time would have chosen to play a role of such an asshole, a rotten apple with no redeeming features. This scene belongs to Melvyn Douglas but gives a good idea of the father son struggle that represents the inter-generational tussle that was played out in drawing rooms in every state in America during the 60’s.
Newman’s Fast Eddie is probably his most memorable role. The film is not only the best film about pool ever made, but on the best. Period. This is the final scene with the final pool game, on which the fortune of the character hangs. The movie is full of great speeches from Newman though
The 1960 ‘Zionist Epic’ is sometimes cited as being influential in drumming up Zionist support in the United States. Controversial in its handling of the Israeli-Arab relationship, however, Newman gives a very stron, unapologetic performance as Ari Ben Canaan.
The Colour of Money got him the Oscar, the Road to Perdition allowed him to revel in his old age, but of his later work The Verdict had the most heart. A highly under-rated film and an excellent performance by Newman.