Monday, September 29, 2008
Farewell, Paul, and thanks
Growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, I was first aware of Paul Newman as one of the celebrities who often showed up for the Indianapolis 500, along with James Garner, Florence Henderson, Jim Nabors, and native son Steve McQueen. I didn’t actually see Paul Newman in a movie until I was in my late teens. That movie was The Sting, which remains one of my favorite movies.
I always liked Paul Newman, even before seeing any of his movies. He had an easy charm to him, and his beautiful eyes always seemed to have a wink hidden in one corner, as if to assure people that they shouldn’t take anything he did too seriously -- even when he undertook such brave acting roles as Cool Hand Luke. Whenever I heard Mom and her female friends get into one of those debates about who was more attractive, Newman or frequent co-star Robert Redford, I always thought the women who chose Redford were out of their minds. Newman, to me, was far more ruggedly handsome, and his characters always appeared, well, smarter than Redford’s characters. That air of intelligence is probably what made Newman so believable as the smooth con man in movies like The Sting and The Hustler.
As a comic book reader, I can’t say I was disappointed when I first learned that artist Gil Kane originally based his design of Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan on Paul Newman. (And Carol Ferris was based on Elizabeth Taylor. Kane must have been a fan of the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.) I can easily see the young Paul Newman in Kane’s early drawings of Hal Jordan.
These days, most people probably know Paul Newman best from the rows of “Newman’s Own” salad dressing at neighborhood supermarkets. Given that a big chunk of the money earned by that salad dressing goes to charity, I have to state that Newman certainly could have left behind much worse legacies. Besides, it’s darned good salad dressing.
Actor, entrepreneur, car racing enthusiast ... Paul Newman was all these and more, and it was a heck of a lot of fun to be part of his audience. Farewell, Paul, and thanks.