“If you’re playing a poker game and you look around the table and can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you.” — Paul Newman
Paul Leonard Newman was born on this day in Shaker Heights, Ohio, USA in 1925. Today is the 89th anniversary of his birth.
The second of Arthur and Theresa Newman’s two boys, Paul took an early interest in acting. He made his debut as the court jester in Robin Hood on his elementary school stage at the age of 7. The Newmans lived in the wealthy Shaker Heights neighborhood of Cleveland, where Arthur owned a sporting good store. Paul graduated from Shaker Heights High in 1943 and attended Ohio University of Ohio for a while before he was kicked out for unruly behavior (including crashing a beer keg into the president of the University’s car.) He joined the Navy with hopes of becoming a pilot, but when it was discovered he was color blind he became a radio operator. He served three years in the service.Back home he went to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He received his BA in drama and economics in 1949. He developed his craft in several summer stock productions before moving to New York and joining the Actors Studio.
In 1953 Newman had his Broadway premier in Picnic. He follow that with The Desperate Hours and Sweet Bird of Youth. He did TV appearances on series like Tales of Tomorrow and Appointmen twith Adventure.
His first film role was anything but successful…
In 1954, a film Paul was very reluctant to do was released, The Silver Chalice (1954). He considered his performance in this costume epic to be so bad that he took out a full-page ad in a trade paper apologizing for it to anyone who might have seen it. He had always been embarrassed about the film and reveled in making fun of it. [IMDb]
But second time was a charm and he was pleased with his work as Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). After Cat on a Hot Tin Roof came The Long, Hot Summer with Joanne Woodward (who would soon become his second wife.) [Ibid]
The 1960s would bring Paul Newman into superstar status, as he became one of the most popular actors of the decade, and garnered three more Best Actor Oscar nominations, for The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963) and Cool Hand Luke (1967)…1969 brought the popular screen duo Paul Newman and Robert Redford together for the first time when Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) was released. It was a box office smash. Throughout the 1970s, Newman had hits and misses from such popular films as The Sting (1973) and The Towering Inferno (1974) to lesser known films as The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) to a now cult classic Slap Shot (1977). (Ibid)
He finally got the Best Actor Oscar statue in 1986 for his role of Fast Eddie Felson in the Color of Money. (Color of Money was the long awaited sequel to The Hustler.)
In all he was nominated 10 times for Academy Awards over a span of 5 decades.
Films were not the only thing on his mind… A passionate race car driver since the early 1970s, Newman became co-owner of Newman-Haas racing in 1982, and also founded “Newman’s Own”, a successful line of food products that has earned in excess of $100 million, every penny of which Newman donated to charity. He also started The Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, an organization for terminally ill children. He was as well known for his philanthropic ways and highly successful business ventures as he was for his legendary actor status. [Ibid]
Newman died of lung cancer at the age of 83 in 2008.