Anne Notations

Friday, August 08, 2008

The sting

To the extent that Americans tolerate royalty, they crown not politicians (McCain's attack ad notwithstanding) but actors and musicians. "Stars," in other words.

These days any whack job can be a celebrity, it seems, but true Hollywood stars are a rarer breed. One of the best and most enduring is the actor Paul Newman, renowned for memorable roles in classic American movies from Hud to The Sting to this old-school favorite of hockey fanatics everywhere:

Slap Shot (1977)

I cop to a modest Web-based celebrity-watching hobby, and I want you to know right now that, like red wine and oat bran, it's actually good for me, so don't judge. (Source: "The study found that those who followed the lives of famous people for entertainment and social reasons, did not have significant mental health problems. In fact, they appeared to be more outgoing, optimistic and happy.")

But I never really saw Paul Newman as a celebrity. He was a deft and thoughtful actor, a dedicated family man (married nearly 50 years to Joanne Woodward), a philanthropist of note, and a seriously beautiful guy.

That's what I'm talkin' about.

Today I read that Newman, who is 83 and has been battling cancer, has left the hospital and chosen to die at home in Connecticut, with his family around him. He has, at most, weeks to live.

I'm not sure why this stung my heart as it did. Part of me hates to think of Newman as anything but the dazzling blue-eyed cowboy in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. His imminent death is also a stark milestone in my generation's march to old age. If Paul Newman is no longer with us – putting in a pitch-perfect star turn in 2002's Road to Perdition, taking one last turn around the race track in a streamlined car – then we've lost a symbolic icon of our youth and must look around for the remaining genuine stars of the generation that preceded ours. And there aren't that many of the old lions and lionesses left. (Sean Connery, I'm looking at you.)

Daughter Nell Newman will take over sole leadership of the Newman food industry whose profits have sent thousands of cancer-afflicted kids to summer camps, among other good deeds. That's a legacy, right there, to put on the bragging-rights shelf alongside Paul's nine Oscar nominations and one best actor Oscar.

Can I be shallow and mention Newman's amazing physicality and heart-melting gaze one more time? I guess I just did. His profile was of classical proportions, his sensuous mouth in its prime right up there with Brando's. The good Lord doesn't make many men like Paul Newman – gorgeous, talented, and principled. I'm sorry he has suffered recently, and I'll be genuinely sad to see him go.


  • My aunt Bubbles (who we lost this spring) LOVED Paul Newman. Back when her husband (my uncle Gene, who we also lost this year) was a cab driver, he actually had Paul Newman in his cab one night, but didn't kidnap him, much to Aunt Bubbles' disappointment. I know she would've been heartbroken to hear this news, he is one of the greats.

    I first saw him in The Verdict, and even as a kid I knew there was something about that guy. :)

    (Very glad to hear being a fangirl keeps us sane, btw.)

    By Blogger BrideOfPorkins, at Sat Aug 09, 05:00:00 AM EDT  

  • it is humbling to see that even beautiful people grow old and die, important to remember.

    By Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann, at Sun Aug 10, 12:43:00 AM EDT  

  • Hard to believe he is 83. Sad to say good-bye. He seems somehow forever young; even in recent photos, he still has that glint in his eye.

    By Blogger Miriam L, at Sun Aug 10, 11:38:00 AM EDT  

  • He has been a beautiful man--and for someone straight to say so...well, people can look at me funny. My first exposure to him was as Hud, playing opposite Patricia Neal--it was savage and sexy all at once. For me the high point was The Sting--sleek and relentless. Of course, we HAVE to mention the great bomb, The Silver Chalice, surely one of the 10 worst movies of all time. I believe even Newman repudiated it.

    Now, if indeed he is nearing the inevitable end, may God grant him rest....

    By Blogger Ken, at Sun Aug 10, 11:26:00 PM EDT  

  • Aw, damn. I've loved him in everything I've seen him in, from The Hustler to Road to Perdition, and his pasta sauce is great too. I hope he has a peaceful trip to the other side.

    By Blogger bozoette, at Fri Aug 15, 09:33:00 AM EDT  

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