Monday, October 13, 2008

RIP Paul Newman 1925-2008

Paul Newman was out and out beautiful, a sparkling blue-eyed physical specimen with a charming swagger and a mesmerizing easiness, a man’s man equally adored by every persuasion of moviegoer, and probably one of the all time greatest looking faces to ever get a star’s close-up as part of the assembly line of the Hollywood Dream Factory. It turned out he could act too. Without seemingly lifting a finger (for a box office kingpin, he was a remarkably recessive big screen figure) he became a truly iconic movie figure, bridging the wide gap from the 50’s to the 60’s, connecting the lamp lit dots from Brando and Dean to Nicholson and Beatty, making all the pre and post Vietnam lists of movie rebels with and without causes, conjuring up the peculiar voodoo of the American male whose compass has been jarred, epitomizing that very guy in movies based on the works of authors ranging from Tennessee Williams to Ken Kesey to Richard Russo. Like almost everyone whipped through the Hollywood vortex Newman made his share of clunkers but his acting choices were more often than not impeccable, and many of his performances infinitely more resounding than the completed films themselves. He play tough guys with hearts of gold, heels, con men, cops, lawyers, private dicks, cowpokes, sons, dads and grandfathers, ne’er do wells and magnates, cuckolds and lovers, and he brought to them all a sense of lean efficiency, eschewing ham handedness or grandstanding, making film audiences peer deep within the glint of those infamous eyes to sometimes catch the soul of a prototypical American dreamer, yearner, and sometimes failure.

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