Yesterday I got the news that Paul Newman died just before John and I left for the ball park. It's not something I was ready for or the kind of thing you want to hear on a Saturday, or I guess any day for that matter.
Paul Newman played the kids of guys I easily identify with. Guys with fast smiles, quick wit but a darker, more intense side. There's a reason he played the hero in two film adaptations of Richard Russo's books, Empire Falls and Nobody's Fool. He was dashing and cool, but a thinking man's star. And, despite those devastating blue eyes, his on-screen relationships didn't seem to come easily to him. He was, for all his star power, an everyman.
My favorite role is from Nobody's Fool, where he played Sully, the town handyman and 60-something teenager who enjoys his beer. It's really Newman's first role that acknowledged his age and he is it with his usual grudging panache. I'm also a big fan of his work in Absence of Malice, playing the son of a mafia boss who's just trying to make his way when he is accused of murder. He does anger so well in this film and also brings a mis-cast Sally FIeld along to create excellent intellectuial and sexual tension. My son knew exactly who Paul Newman was when I decsibed him as the voice of Doc Hudson from Cars. Newman cut across three generations.
To me, his work as a philanthropist and supporter of liberal causes in addition to his business and racing interests go a long way to demonstrating that Paul Newman didn't just entertain, he worked to show us what we too could do with our talents if we just worked as hard as he did.