PAUL LEONARD NEWMAN was born on January 26, 1925 in Shaker
Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. His parents, Arthur and Theresa Newman,
were fairly well-to-do and ran a successful sporting-goods store. Paul
was a fan of the theatre as a youngster and his mother encouraged his interest.
At the age of seven he made his acting debut as the court jester in the
school play, "Robin Hood." It would be several years before he
seriously considered acting as a career however.
After graduating from high school in 1943, Paul wandered a bit, even
working as a door-to-door salesman for Collier's Encyclopedias before enlisting
in the Naval Air Corps. His piloting ambitions were cut short however,
because it was discovered that Paul's famous blue eyes were actually color-blind.
He joined the regular navy however, and served in the South Pacific during
World War II. When he returned he enrolled at Kenyon College in Ohio, studying
literature and acting, and playing a little football. It was at Kenyon
that Paul rediscovered his interest in acting.
After receiving his BA from Kenyon in 1949, Paul joined a few summer
stock companies including the prestigious Woodstock Players, and began
to develop his talents. He wanted to be known for more than his famous
blue eyes and good looks. In 1949 he met and married Jackie Witte, and when
his father died in May 1950, Paul had to decide whether to continue his
acting or chose the more stable profession of running the family business.
Paul's love for acting won out and he moved his family (son Scott was born
in Ohio) to New Haven, CT where he enrolled at Yale University's graduate
program in acting. There Newman and his wife had two daughters, but New
York called and Paul left Yale for Broadway.
In New York, Paul began his professional career playing small television
roles and he was eventually accepted to the Actor's Studio, an acting school
famous for "The Method" acting of such new stars as Brando,
James Dean and Marilyn
Monroe. After success
in his first big Broadway production, "Picnic," and subsequent
roles Paul went to Hollywood and in 1954 signed a contract with
Warner Bros., though he would eventually do most of his work for 20th Century-Fox.
Paul's first film THE SILVER CHALICE (1954) was a disaster
and a life-long embarrassment, but he was lauded for his portrayal of boxer
Rocky Graziano in SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956)
and his career began to take off. Meanwhile his personal life was going
through some changes. He had left his wife and family in New York, and
while in Hollywood, began an affair with an up-and-coming young actress
named Joanne Woodward. In 1957 they were paired in THE LONG, HOT SUMMER
also starring Orson Welles and Angela
Lansbury. That same year Paul and his wife were divorced.
On January 29, 1958 Paul married Woodward and he received his first
Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF
with Burl Ives, Elizabeth
Taylor and Judith Anderson.
He would go on to be nominated six more times for films such as THE HUSTLER
(1961) in which he played pool shark Fast Eddie Felson, HUD (1963), and
COOL HAND LUKE (1967) before he finally won in 1987 for his reprisal
of Fast Eddie in THE COLOR OF MONEY. Paul, sure that the
statuette would once again elude him, didn't attend the ceremony.
Other notable films of Paul's career include Alfred
Hitchcock's TORN CURTAIN (1966) and two films co-starring Robert
Redford, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
(1969) and THE STING (1973). In 1992 he and Woodward were recognized
at the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors and in 1994 he received his eighth Best
Actor Academy Award nomination for his role as Sully in NOBODY'S FOOL with
Paul continued to make occasional films after the turn of the century,
including Sam Mendes' crime drama ROAD TO PERDITION (2002) for which he
earned his first Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination (and tenth overall).
He also lent his voice to the character of Doc Hudson in
Oscar-nominated animated feature CARS (2006) and starred as the stage
manager in a Broadway revival of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" in 2002-3.
But for the last decade of his life, most of Paul's energies were focused on his philanthropic interests. The profits from his "Newman's
Own" line of salad dressings and other food items have supported causes
ranging from The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for terminally ill children,
to the Scott Newman Foundation for drug and alcohol abuse education (named
for his son who died of an overdose), to drought relief in Africa. When Newman
died of cancer at age 83 on September 26, 2008, he was survived by his wife
of 50 years, Joanne Woodward, their three daughters, and his two daughters
from his first marriage.
Biographical information from A&E Biography and