One of the best actors in filmic history died today. Paul Newman, the other guy from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the guy whose star shone so brightly that even Tom Cruise looked like Oscar material when standing beside him, finally lost a battle with cancer.
You’ve got to give credit to Paul Newman not just for his good-natured humanitarianism and his un-Hollywood-like work ethic, but also just for his sheer acting ability. This man, who couldn’t help but be pretty damned good-looking even into his later life, rarely played the smartest guy or the dumbest, the best or the most evil, but generally excelled at roles where the character’s brains, emotions, sensitivity and needs all duke it out for which will have mastery over that character’s soul.
And let’s not forget his ability to bring levity to tragedy, and stoicism to comedy. Newman’s best role of all time, in my opinion, has to be the comedy that out slaps, out swears, and outlaughs all other blue collar comedies–Slapshot!
If you haven’t seen this film, do yourself a favor and just rent it and put it on. From frame one, this is a classic. My Uncle Buddy, my great-uncle and the quintessential black sheep of the family, gave this to me on video when I was about 12 and told me he saw this movie at a time in his life “when I just needed a good laugh.” The dialogue, which seems so rough-and-tumble and quintessentially masculine, was actually written by one Nancy Dowd, a criminally under-utilized writer who also went on to do Ladies and Gentlemen… the Fabulous Stains!
But I digress. Even at 83, Paul Newman made me in a way proud to be an American, and the world misses him. My girlfriend and I bought our doggy a can of Newman’s Own organic dog food in his honor.
P.S. Yes, I know Newman’s Own isn’t vegan, but I haven’t yet worked that out with the dog and the missus. At least the money goes to pet charities. And Fido won’t contract Mad Cow Disease.
P.P.S. I wonder if Paul, in his dying breath, thought to himself “What a Way to Go!”