Weblog of Leland Rucker
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Cool Hand Newman

I cried when I read the headline that Paul Newman had died. I had heard the rumors the last few months that he had cancer, but it didn’t make it any easier. As Billie said when I told her: “We grew up with him.” And indeed we did. I was attracted to his movies and characters from the time Cool Hand Luke cemented the deal right up to the last one, Empire Falls.

I’m not sure now which movie I saw first or whether I saw any of his films first-run before Cool Hand Luke, but from there on, I was hooked. I have probably missed some good ones, but the incredible number in which he played memorable roles to me is worth mentioning. The guy didn’t pick many stinkers, and he was always good in his roles.

Rally Round the Flag Boys. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sweet Bird of Youth. The Hustler. Hud. Cool Hand Luke. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Sometimes a Great Notion. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean. The Sting. The Towering Inferno, Buffalo Bill and the Indians. Slap Shot. Ft. Apache the Bronx. Absence of Malice. The Verdict. Harry & Son. The Color of Money. Fat Man and Little Boy. Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. Nobody’s Fool. Empire Falls.

Despite all these triumphs, Newman never seemed hung up about the movie business, and this is perhaps the reason I held him in such high regard. He lived almost as far from California as you can get with a woman he married in 1958. He left acting, bored out of his brain, at the height of his celebrity, to take up auto racing. He gave away millions of dollars, and used his handsome face to sell classy products to raise money for charity. He wisely stayed out of the public eye; until the news broke that he had cancer earlier this year, I couldn’t remember his name on any supermarket tabloid headline. Paul Newman. Nothing but a class act.


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