Screen Legend Paul Newman Dies at Age 83

Spokesman confirms Hollywood icon's death Friday from cancer.

September 27, 2008, 10:10 AM

Sept. 27, 2008 — -- Hollywood icon Paul Newman died Friday of cancer, his spokesman said. He was 83 years old.

In June, after he was photographed looking gaunt and sickly at an Indianapolis 500 event, reports surfaced that Newman was suffering from cancer.

"It's a form of cancer and he's dealing with it," A.E. Hotchner, a writer who partnered with Newman to start Newman's Own salad dressing company in the 1980s, told The Associated Press.

Newman's last screen appearance was as a conflicted mob boss in 2002's "Road to Perdition" opposite Tom Hanks, although he continued to do voice work on films. He provided the voice of Doc Hudson, a retired race car in Disney/Pixar's 2006 film "Cars."

The news sent shockwaves throughout Hollywood. "He set the bar too high for the rest of us -- not just actors, but all of us," George Clooney said through a spokesman. "He will be greatly missed."

Julia Roberts said simply, "He was my hero."

Director Martin Scorcese was more discursive. "It's a great loss, in so many ways," he said. "The history of movies without Paul Newman? It's unthinkable. His presence, his beauty, his physical eloquence, the emotional complexity he could conjure up and transmit through his acting in so many movies – where would we be without him?... But in addition to being a great actor, one of the greatest really, he was also such a fine, caring man. I will miss him greatly."

Newman's cool blue eyes could have made him a matinee idol, but he was never one to rely on his looks. Instead, he made his name in the late 1950s and 1960s playing troubled loners and rebels without a cause.

The face that in later years smiled from products on grocery store shelves on countless "Newman's Own" products, promising, "All profits go to charity," was once that of the smoldering star of such films as "The Hustler," "Hud," "Hombre" and "Cool Hand Luke."

But he could do comedy, too, as he showed in "Butch Cassisdy and the Sundance Kid," and "The Sting," both with Robert Redford. And even after his hair went gray, his acting chops still brought him leading roles, such as the down-and-out lawyer in "The Verdict" and his reprisal of pool shark "Fast Eddie" Felson in "The Color of Money," with Tom Cruise.

Born Jan. 26, 1925, in Cleveland, Newman began acting in elementary school, starred in plays in high school and -- after a stint in the Navy -- at Kenyon College. He also spent a year at the Yale Drama School.

He honed his low-key acting style at The Actor's Studio, the New York group where Marlon Brando, James Dean and, later, Robert DeNiro also studied.

Newman got his start on Broadway in the early 1950s and immediately caught Hollywood's eye, but his first film, "The Silver Chalice," was almost his last. It was so bad, Newman took out a full page ad in a trade paper apologizing for it.

He didn't need to apologize for his next film, a 1956 biopic of boxing champ Rocky Graziano, "Somebody Up There Likes Me," which drew praise from the critics and was a box-office success.

Newman went on to become one of the most acclaimed actors in Hollywood history. He was nominated 10 times for an Oscar, and in addition to his Academy Award win for "The Color of Money," he received an honorary Oscar in 1986 "in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft" and a third Oscar, in 1994, in recognition of his charity work.

Dashingly handsome and possessed of an impish grin that communicated his enjoyment of his craft, Newman was equally adept at playing lovable rogues, as with his drunken parking-meter vandal in "Cool Hand Luke," unstable types (Hud Bannon in "Hud") and unflappable confidence men (Eddie Felson in "The Hustler). All of the personae were on display in his star turn opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in 1958.

Newman starred in more than 50 films, including "The Rack," "The Long Hot Summer" (for which he was named Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival), "The Left-Handed Gun," "Exodus," "Sweet Bird of Youth," "The Hustler," "Paris Blues," "What a Way to Go," "Harper," Alfred Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain" and many more.

In 2003, Newman appeared in a Broadway theater revival of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town." He received his first Tony Award nomination for his performance. PBS and the cable network Showtime aired a taping of the production, and Newman was nominated for an Emmy Award, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie.

In 2005, Newman was given an Emmy award, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award for his performance in the mini series "Empire Falls," for which he also served as executive producer.

Newman also was recognized for his work behind the camera, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and a Golden Globe award for Best Director for "Rachel, Rachel," which he produced and directed, and which starred his wife, Joanne Woodward.

In May 2007, Newman told ABC News' "Good Morning America" that he had given up acting.

"I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to," he said. "You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me."

Newman cultivated passions outside acting, notably auto racing. He took home trophies from Le Mans and Daytona and was co-owner of an Indy car team.

During the filming of "The Long Hot Summer," Newman co-starred with Joanne Woodward, whom he knew from their work together in a Broadway production of "Picnic." The two fell in love, and after Newman's first wife agreed to give him a divorce, they married in 1958.

Unlike most Hollywood couples, Newman and Woodward never split. He once said, when asked how it was that they were able to stay true to one another, "Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?"

A statement released today by Newman's spokesman quoted an unnamed friend of the actor remembering what it was like to watch him watch Woodward.

"No one in his audience was ever privy to the tenderness and pride Paul had for Joanne and her talent," the friend was quoted as saying. "Watching him on the set watching her, from his seat by the camera, was to see a man transformed: his brave face taken all unawares, his lips parted in amazement, his eyes brimming with tears that never fell. It was a brief window into a man in perpetual love."

In the 1980s Newman turned his attention to charity work. He started Newman's Own, a food company that he built from the ground up, with all of the proceeds going to charity -- more than $240 million to date. He also started "Hole-in-the-Wall Camps" for terminally ill children. The name for those camps came from the gangsters' hideout in his film, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

When asked why he started the "Hole-in-the-Wall" camps, Newman spoke of luck: "I wanted to acknowledge luck: the chance and benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others, who might not be allowed the good fortune of a lifetime to correct it."

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