Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone was the first to post a report of Paul Newman‘s death last night, but the source seemed a wee bit dicey and I decided to wait until this morning. But just to run it down I called Newman’s biographer-in-progress Shawn Levy — he was uncertain also. And very sleepy. (And so was I.)
Now the news is confirmed. Frank Galvin, Hud Bannon, Henry Gondorff, Cool Hand Luke, Rocky Graziano, Butch Cassidy, Reggie Dunlop, Lew Harper and Eddie Felson have left the room for good. We’ve all known it was coming for months, but there’s something about the finality or, as Bob Dylan once put it, the honesty of death that seeps right into your bloodstream at times, depending on how well you knew the departed and how much you cared and valued his or her presence.
I was very closely acquainted with Paul Newman. He was kin. I felt I knew him as well if not better than my own blood. I knew and cared for him as much as I knew and cared for John Lennon, Cary Grant and the 1950-to-1972 version of Marlon Brando.
The passing of someone close always brings shock and hurt, regardless of forewarning. It’s also scary and sad but there’s no stopping it and we’re all gonna get there — no exceptions. But a life well lived is its own reward, day by day, and not just for the captain of that life but everyone he/she comes into contact with along the way.
All hail the heart and mind that went into the creation of Newman’s Own. And to the spirit behind Newman’s winning lead performance as the bruised but good-natured Reggie in George Roy Hill‘s Slap Shot — perhaps my favorite Newman guy of all.
To quote from Aljean Harmetz‘s obit in the N.Y. Times, which quotes Pauline Kael: “When a role is right for him, he’s peerless. Newman is most comfortable in a role when it isn’t scaled heroically; even when he plays a bastard, he’s not a big bastard — only a callow, selfish one, like Hud. He can play what he’s not — a dumb lout. But you don’t believe it when he plays someone perverse or vicious, and the older he gets and the better you know him, the less you believe it.
“His likableness is infectious; nobody should ever be asked not to like Paul Newman.”