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Photo caption: Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman 
lean back to back on each other (early 1960s). 
Photo credit: Fotos International/Getty Images/NewsCom

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Exemplary Collaborators

A Tribute by:
Kris Berggren


Arguably, the late Paul Newman outshined his wife Joanne Woodward in movie star quality—those compelling eyes and that ageless, handsome face made him recognizable the world over, while the young Woodward’s all-American ingénue looks were almost generic by comparison. Yet when Newman was asked whether he wasn’t ever tempted by starlets and leading ladies who might have jumped at the chance to unseat Woodward in his bed if not his heart, he reportedly said, “I have steak at home. Why would I go out for hamburger?” 

Click Here to read complete Tribute

The Man & His Work
A Life Well Lived

A Tribute by:
Alan & Sharon Waldman


Paul Newman was one of the most beloved actors of the second half of the 20th Century and the most popular movie star of the 1960s and 1970s. He won three Oscars, 36 other awards and 47 more nominations—for 24 of his 58 movies. Newman is the only actor ever to win an acting Academy Award, a humanitarian Oscar and another for lifetime achievement.

Click Here to read complete Tribute




Exemplary Collaborators

A Tribute by:
Kris Berggren


Arguably, the late Paul Newman outshined his wife Joanne Woodward in movie star quality—those compelling eyes and that ageless, handsome face made him recognizable the world over, while the young Woodward’s all-American ingénue looks were almost generic by comparison. Yet when Newman was asked whether he wasn’t ever tempted by starlets and leading ladies who might have jumped at the chance to unseat Woodward in his bed if not his heart, he reportedly said, “I have steak at home. Why would I go out for hamburger?” 

That flip response belies the deep artistic and intimate partnership they shared onscreen and at home for a remarkable run as sometime costars and longtime life companions—50 years of marriage and several of unofficial partnership prior to that. Does art mirror life or vice versa? The Newman-Woodward canon often explores themes of sexual attraction, romantic love and the challenges of lifetime commitment. Their onscreen chemistry was an offshoot, no doubt, of their private chemistry—and it worked to advantage whenever they co-starred, whether in their first film, THE LONG HOT SUMMER, in which they played opposites who definitely attracted, right on through their Merchant-Ivory masterpiece, MR. AND MRS. BRIDGE, portraying a conventional Midwestern couple in the mid-20th Century with middle-of-the-road values and repressed emotions.


1. MR. AND MRS. BRIDGE (1990)
2. RACHEL, RACHEL (1968)
4. PARIS BLUES (1961)
5. WINNING (1970)

The Newman-Woodward chemistry was perhaps less effective in lighthearted period comedies like RALLY ROUND THE FLAG, BOYS and A NEW KIND OF LOVE than in emotionally complex dramas that took on both political and personal issues and reflected their times in deeper ways, such as PARIS BLUES, the award-winning RACHEL, RACHEL, WINNING, MR. AND MRS. BRIDGE, and their (small) screen swan song, the HBO miniseries EMPIRE FALLS.

Aspiring actors Newman and Woodward met on Broadway in 1953 in the cast of William Inge’s PICNIC. It was a hard, fast fall into love, though Newman was a married father of three. The couple became gossip-column fodder as they grew more open about their relationship, but they quickly married after Newman’s divorce was finalized in 1958. Later that year Woodward won a best actress Oscar for the title role in THE THREE FACES OF EVE, while Newman starred with Elizabeth Taylor in the blockbuster CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF

That momentous year also marked Newman and Woodward’s debut as screen co-stars in THE LONG HOT SUMMER. The Georgia-born Woodward was perfect as Clara Varner, prim but nubile daughter of Orson Welles’ Will Varner, the biggest businessman and landlord in Frenchman’s Bend, Mississippi. Newman radiates sex appeal as drifter Ben Quick, who found the allure of the wealthy Varners worth settling down for. As Clara’s spoiled sister-in-law Eula, Lee Remick deftly calls up the spirit of spoiled coquette Scarlett O’Hara. The film derives from literary roots in a William Faulkner novel and short story, not to mention a strong Tennessee Williams vibe: all that simmering sexuality waiting to explode like the barn fires Quick is accused of setting and fleeing from. This film generated the ongoing partnership between Newman and Martin Ritt, who went on to direct Newman in some of his most famous roles in HUD and THE HUSTLER.
Ritt also directed PARIS BLUES, with Newman as Ram Bowen and Sidney Poitier as Eddie Cook, expatriate American jazz musicians who love their French lifestyle—late nights, gritty streets and passionate fans, friends and lovers. Woodward as Lillian Corning and Diahann Carroll as Connie Lampson are vacationing friends who fall in love with the musicians, Corning pairing off with Bowen and Lampson with Cook. What appears to be a lighthearted romance becomes very French and existential, as both couples negotiate their allegiances to home, family and work—and in the case of Poitier and Carroll’s characters, their identities as pre-Civil Rights Act African-Americans. The jazz credentials are authentic: Louis Armstrong plays a cameo role, and the Oscar-nominated score was written by Duke Ellington.

Filmed on location in black and white, PARIS BLUES contrasts starkly with an earlier Woodward-Newman project, A NEW KIND OF LOVE: a silly Cinderella story set in a Paris of clichés, including Eva Gabor’s one-note socialite on the make and a crooning Maurice Chevalier. Woodward’s performance as Samantha Blake, the androgynous, workaholic assistant to a retail executive who morphs into a high-heel-and-false-eyelash-wearing fashionista during a Paris business trip, evokes the self-deprecating physical comedy of a Jamie Lee Curtis. However, both her role and Newman’s—as a sexist journalist who mistakes Samantha for a high-priced hooker—are forgettable. 

Such silliness is quite the exception to the couple’s body of intelligent, socially aware and progressive work, including Newman’s direction of his wife in two award-winning performances. Oscar-nominated RACHEL, RACHEL, which won the 1968 New York Film Critics and 1969 Golden Globe awards for Newman as director and Woodward as best actress, is something of a darkly modern Jane Austen story of a single woman living a “respectable” life while she yearns for joy and love and freedom of experience. Woodward’s small-town teacher Rachel Cameron, approaching middle age, is surprising and complex—never formulaic. 

Woodward shines as she exhibits a sublime range of fear, anger, deep sadness and occasional moments of joy and pleasure, as Rachel takes tentative steps toward claiming the life she wants, rather than the one her overbearing, high-maintenance mother wants for her. Through a series of choices and consequences—namely her sexual initiation with Nick Kazlik, a visiting high school acquaintance (played by one-hit wonder James Olson) who is world-wise and experienced, yet tender enough to earn her trust—Rachel begins to choose. Newman uses shadowy night scenes to echo Rachel’s dark moods and repeated images of closing or slamming doors to symbolize Rachel’s confinement as if in a coffin of social convention and oppressive family ties. (It’s no coincidence she and her mother live above the family funeral home.) Rachel’s development heralds the era’s burgeoning sexual revolution and movement toward women’s autonomy and sexual freedom. Estelle Parsons was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Calla, Rachel’s fellow teacher and closeted lesbian best friend, who offers Rachel her only halfway decent peer relationship—though even Calla addresses her, to Rachel’s consternation, as “Child.” In a series of flashback scenes, the child Rachel is played by a golden-haired Nell Potts, the stage name of Elinor Newman, one of Newman and Woodward’s three daughters. 

Potts also played her mother’s screen daughter a few years later in THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS, which earned Woodward the 1973 best actress award at Cannes for her portrayal of eccentric, misanthropic single mother Beatrice Hunsdorfer, and a best director nomination for Newman. Much later, he told a British television interviewer that of all the sexy, assured women Woodward played, he was somewhat disappointed that Beatrice was the only one she ever brought home with her after work. “I had a lot of evening meetings during that time and ate a lot of dinners out,” he joked. I regret that I could not find this film on VHS or DVD anywhere—I tried Netflix, a specialty video rental shop, the public library and Amazon—nor could I track down THE GLASS MENAGERIE, with Newman directing Woodward as Amanda Wingfield, Karen Allen as daughter Laura and John Malkovich as son Tom in the 1987 film of Tennessee William’s classic play. 

WINNING, also released in 1973, melded Newman’s boxoffice appeal and his interest in car racing with familiar themes of mature sexual attraction and the complexities of balancing domestic and work lives. As Frank and Elora Capua, Newman and Woodward try to make life on the racing circuit work—along with parenting Elora’s teenage son, Charley, played nicely by Richard Thomas in his debut. But Frank has a hard time dividing his loyalties between his racing responsibilities and his new marriage—forcing Elora to figure out where her loyalties lie, as Frank’s buddy Lou Erding (Robert Wagner) comes on to her. Elora’s frank sexual needs and refusal to allow her family responsibilities to define her, Charley’s eagerness to bond with Frank as his adoptive father, and Frank’s faithfulness to his new family even through his pain turn some stereotypes about “broken” families on end. It’s fun to see Newman as a race car driver, knowing this is one of his great off-screen hobbies—and Woodward as the cheering wife in the stands, knowing she didn’t share Newman’s love for the sport. This is a good movie, though not a great one. The dated ‘70s pop instrumental soundtrack, a few too many laps around the track by grimy drivers in loud cars, and the slow pace didn’t qualify it for any award nominations for 1973 and don’t inspire extra kudos today.

In 1990 Woodward and Newman starred in their last feature film together, MR. AND MRS. BRIDGE, a classic, visually rich Merchant-Ivory product set in Kansas City around World War II. Woodward was again nominated for a best actress Oscar, for her role as India Bridge, mother of three and wife to Newman’s staid Republican lawyer Walter Bridge, who believes in hard work and the American Way. His job is to provide and protect—not to express his feelings or question the dependency of his wife and children. Woodward is magnificent as a woman in middle age whose identity markers are all dropping off—her youthful beauty, her children leaving home, even her friends rejecting their privileged bondage. (A friend of India’s suggests she read Thorsten Veblein’s classic social critique, “Theory of the Leisure Class.”) Blythe Danner offers a fantastic supporting performance as Grace, India’s best friend, who is deeply troubled by the confines of the gilded cages they live in and the gender roles that stifle their individuality. When Grace kills herself, India is despondent, but Walter puts himself in Grace’s husband’s shoes, as he spits out the accusation: “He gave her everything a woman could want.” But he failed to give her overt expressions of love, appreciation, admiration, and even gratitude for the sacrifices Grace, India and their peers make to keep the engines of their lives turning precisely. 

Newman and Woodward marshall all their personal and professional experience as the Bridges; they probe the dark corners of what men and women need in a marriage and how they balance—or fail to balance—sex, love, caregiving, breadwinning and individuality. Newman once said, “People stay married because they want to, not because the doors are locked.” In the end, their portrayal of the Bridges serves as a study of the many ways a couple can love: their marriage is not satisfying in all ways at all times, but it endures because its participants want it to.

One more piece deserves mention. The HBO miniseries EMPIRE FALLS, available on DVD, casts the couple in their last on-screen collaboration as part of a terrific ensemble including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ed Harris, Estelle Parsons and Robin Wright Penn. It is based on the Pulitzer Prize- winning novel by Richard Russo, which tracks two families whose lives are linked in a formerly industrial fictional New England town, now struggling to keep Main Street alive. Newman was in top form as the scruffy Max Roby, the unlikely patriarch of a working-class family. Woodward oozed frosty elegance as his counterpart, Francine Whiting, widow of the town’s industrial tycoon. Her manipulations keep Miles Roby (Ed Harris), who manages the Empire Grill—which she owns like almost all the other property in town—in thrall. Perhaps Newman and Woodward chose this project because they loved their own adopted New England home and because in the end they related to the needs of people like the Empire Falls underdogs who just want to earn a living, dream their dreams and love their families.

Maybe the Newman-Woodward secret to marriage is equal parts courage, commitment, compassion and humor. Woodward has been quoted as remarking, “ Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that's a real treat.” They claimed to have little in common, but soundly supported one another’s personal, charitable and professional ventures. Those include his food business, charitable foundation and love of car racing; their Hole-in-the-Wall camp for kids with cancer and their siblings; and her commitment to the Westport Country Playhouse near their Connecticut home, where she is co-artistic director. In fact, it seems fitting that as a means to heal from the loss of her “soul mate,” the 78-year-old Woodward has decided to return to the craft that united them, recently joining the cast of A HOLIDAY GARLAND at the Westport Playhouse. 

© Kris Berggren (December 12, 2008)



The Man & His Work
A Life Well Lived

A Tribute by:
Alan & Sharon Waldman


Paul Newman was one of the most beloved actors of the second half of the 20th Century and the most popular movie star of the 1960s and 1970s. He won three Oscars, 36 other awards and 47 more nominations—for 24 of his 58 movies. Newman is the only actor ever to win an acting Academy Award, a humanitarian Oscar and another for lifetime achievement.

Newman was nominated for nine acting Oscars for CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958), THE HUSTLER (1961), HUD (1963), COOL HAND LUKE (1967), ABSENCE OF MALICE (1981), THE VERDICT (1982), NOBODY’S FOOL (1994), ROAD TO PERDITION (2002) and THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986), winning for the latter. He also performed in 23 TV movies and series, directed six pictures, produced 10 and wrote HARRY & SON

His performance as washed-up lawyer Frank Galvin in THE VERDICT is ranked the 19th best of all time by Premiere magazine, and his turn as Fast Eddie Felson in THE HUSTLER ranks #61.

Two reasons for Newman’s huge career success—and for our difficulty in selecting his 10 best films to recommend to you—is that he was an unusually fine judge of quality scripts, and he chose to work with many of the era’s greatest directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Joel Coen, Michael Curtiz, John Huston, Sidney Lumet, Arthur Penn, George Roy Hill and Martin Ritt (six times).

Two of his films—BUTCH CASSIDY and THE STING—were among the highest-grossing ever, when adjusted for inflation.

Newman was also a highly successful racing car owner and driver and an extraordinary philanthropist, raising hundreds of millions of dollars for charity through the sale of his Newman’s Own line of foods. More than 17,000 children with serious illnesses have enjoyed free vacations with their families at his Hole in the Wall Gang chain of camps in the U.S., Africa, Israel, Ireland and France. And contrary to Hollywood tradition, he was happily married to actress Joanne Woodward for 60 years.

To help us intelligently advise you on what Newman films are most worth renting, we just watched more than half of them (30). Lots of films we like very much didn’t make either of our Top 10 lists (below), including FORT APACHE THE BRONX, HARPER, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and EXODUS.




1. THE VERDICT (1982)
2. NOBODY’S FOOL (1994)
3. THE STING (1973)
    SUNDANCE KID (1969)
5. SLAP SHOT (1977)
6. THE RACK (1956)
7. THE HUSTLER (1961)
8. HUD (1963)
9. COOL HAND LUKE (1967)
     LIKES ME (1956)
3. BLAZE (1989)
9. FAT MAN & LITTLE BOY (1989)


Our favorite Newman film is THE VERDICT, which was nominated for five Oscars (Best Picture, Newman, director Sidney Lumet, screenwriter David Mamet and co-star James Mason), as well as eight other major awards and nominations.

(Alan): Lumet’s superb direction and Mamet’s powerful script support what is probably Newman’s richest, subtlest and best performance: as a drunken, down-and-out ambulance chaser who stands up to the Catholic Church power structure and the defense attorney from hell (Mason) in THE VERDICT, a gripping courtroom drama about a Boston malpractice suit. Jack Warden, Milo O’Shea, Charlotte Rampling and Lindsay Crouse provide strong support. This one blew me away 26 years ago and again last night.

(Sharon): Paul Newman’s performance as Frank Galvin in THE VERDICT is nothing short of amazing. A recent viewing of his other films reveals how different this character is from others he’s played over the years. Newman’s portrayal digs deep into the man’s soul and emerges as a fully formed, complicated human being. You see nothing of the charming leading man. You see only Frank Galvin’s despair, self-disgust and half-hearted attempts to pull his life together, until the sneering legal community pushes him too far and reawakens his sense of justice. The script is outstanding, but Newman’s performance as Frank Galvin is his great work of art.

(Alan): In NOBODY’S FOOL, Newman, at 70, is wonderful as a charming old, small-town rascal who flirts with Bruce Willis’s wife (Melanie Griffith), discovers and tries to build a relationship with his long-abandoned son (Dylan Walsh) and unknown grandson, has a delightful relationship with his elderly landlady (Jessica Tandy, marvelous as always in what was her final role) and interacts amusingly with assorted townspeople well played by Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gene Saks, Josef Sommer and young Philip Seymour Hoffman. Though more episodic than plot-structured, this is chock-full of fresh, off-beat humor, and it is a pure delight for 110 straight minutes. Only a hopeless curmudgeon would not love it. One terrific running gag is the ongoing battle between Newman and Willis to keep stealing the latter’s snow blower. Newman really earned his Oscar nom here, as writer-director Robert Benton did for his exhilarating screenplay. Newman also won three other best actor honors for this one, plus two other noms. One reason I like this film so much is that it successfully breaks all the classic (hidebound) screenwriting rules.

(Sharon): The leisurely pace and charming wit of this film mask the serious issues it deals with. My advice is to sit back and savor Robert Benton’s writing and directing, the antics of Newman’s adorable underachiever, and the delightful performances of all the wonderful actors. Without sentimentality or preaching, we witness a man’s redemption. 

(Alan): I loved THE STING in 1973 and enjoyed it just as much (although I knew what was coming) 35 years later. Shaw was a terrific villain, Robert Redford and Paul Newman were delightful as the con men who fool him twice, and there were solid supporting performances from fine character actors Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan and Harold Gould. THE STING was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning seven, including best picture, screenplay (David S. Ward), director (George Roy Hill) and score (Marvin Hamlisch, although the Academy criminally did not award one to legendary ragtime composer Scott Joplin, whose music give the movie much of its flavor). The film won another eight major awards (including DGA, PGA and People’s Choice Favorite Motion Picture) and three more nominations. This movie is beautifully crafted and a pleasure from beginning to end. The tension between Shaw and the team of Newman and Redford is electric.

(Sharon): THE STING is as delightful now as when it was made. The script contains one surprise after another, the characters are amusing, and Paul Newman and Robert Redford as two roguish con men are at their most charming. As we watch them concoct larger and larger cons, they draw the audience into the schemes and have us rooting for them. I defy anyone to resist falling in love with these characters.

(Alan): BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID, winner of four Oscars (for writer William Goldman, cinematographer Conrad Hall, composer Burt Bachrach and song writers Bachrach and Hal David [for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”]), plus 17 other honors and 11 more nominations, including Oscar noms for Best Picture, Newman and best sound. Quirky, amusing, unexpected and nicely shot by George Roy Hill, this was a massive hit. Newman and co-star Robert Redford are terrific playing together as a pair of outlaws who are followed by an unstoppable posse… as far as Bolivia! This was Newman’s first big blockbuster hit, and it put him on the map—where he stayed for the next 33 years.

(Sharon): I did not like this film when I first saw it in 1969. I had high regard for the great Western films, and William Goldman’s script was a pseudo-Western with modern dialogue and attitudes. I found it a mockery of the form. However, I couldn’t deny that it was entertaining and produced some unforgettable moments. Upon re-viewing it recently, I found that I enjoyed it despite its anachronisms. This was the first pairing of Newman and Redford, who portrayed Butch and Sundance with such zest and merriment that, in the end, I couldn’t resist.

(Alan): In SLAP SHOT, Newman is quite funny as an untalented minor league hockey coach who decides to bring in bigger crowds by having his team play dirty. Based on the true adventures of three weird Canadian hockey players (who have since become cult heroes up north)—the three Hanson Brothers are played here by two of the guys they are based on, plus one of their original teammates. This is an amusing, surprising plot, with funny details and a quirky cast, led by Strother Martin, Lindsay Crouse and Michael Ontkean (who actually was a hockey player before becoming an actor). This one has become a cult classic. It was once controversial for its salty language, which, Newman once confessed, made his own post-Slap Shot speech dirtier. Newman, at age 52, does his own ice skating and some of his own wacky stunts. Nancy Dowd’s script was nominated for the Best Original Comedy WGA award, and the film won a Japanese Best Foreign film award.

(Sharon): I confess that I refused to see this movie in 1977 when it came out. As an intelligent young woman, I decided that it was nothing but violence and profanity—obviously a gratuitous attempt to titillate young boys! Of course, it was. However, upon finally viewing it as a mature woman, I saw it was much more. Not only was I blown away by Newman and Ontkean’s skating skill, but by Newman’s creation of Reg Dunlop, a hockey coach whose cojones surpass his intelligence. His detailed performance is a marvel. Nancy Dowd’s hilarious script and George Roy Hill’s testosterone-driven direction create a violent, profane movie that keeps you laughing out loud. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I loved it.

(Alan): THE HUSTLER was a huge critical hit in 1961, nominated for nine Oscars, winning for cinematography and art direction. It was nominated for 17 other major honors, winning nine, including BAFTA, Golden Globe and two others for Newman (plus an Oscar nom). THE HUSTLER has become a great American classic movie. It remains enjoyable today, although it is a bit dated. Despite a few weak, melodramatic scenes and a slow-paced mid-section, this is a compelling drama about cocky young pool hustler “Fast Eddy Felson,” out to beat “Minnesota Fats” (Jackie Gleason), considered the country’s best stickman. George C. Scott is strong as the villain. Trained by pool champ Willie Mosconi (who did a lot of the trickier shots), Newman went from no pool experience to sufficient skill to do several of the noteworthy pool shots himself on the screen. Here’s fine work by Newman, Scott and Gleason (in probably his best and most understated work ever).

(Sharon): Paul Newman’s Fast Eddy Felson is a complicated guy. He has talent, yet all he uses it for is to hustle inexperienced players. He has a girl (Piper Laurie) who takes care of him when he fails, yet when he wins, he ignores her. He tries to make the big time, but he doesn’t know when to quit, or when to stop drinking. Newman makes us care about Eddy, even with all his flaws.

(Alan): In his second film, 31-year-old Newman and co-stars Walter Pigeon and Edmond O’Brien were great in THE RACK, a gripping, poignant military court-martial drama from a terrific Rod Serling script. Tortured by the Chinese during the Korean War, Newman’s Capt. Eddie Hall signed confessions and made propaganda speeches, which have now landed him on trial for collaborating with the enemy. The father-son dynamic between Newman and Pigeon is very moving and well played.

(Sharon): What a happy surprise this little gem from the 1950s turned out to be! Newman shines as a soldier who tried his best to cope with being a prisoner of war but was targeted by the enemy for torture. When he returns home, he tries to forget, as he goes through numbness, then resentment, defensiveness, fear, and finally a complete breakdown on the stand. 

(Sharon): COOL HAND LUKE is an iconic film, successful probably because it reflected the anti-establishment attitudes of its time (1967). Paul Newman’s Luke is an anti-hero, fighting against all authority. Newman was adept at playing surly, moody, sarcastic men who refuse to do what society expects of them. When Luke is put on a prison chain gang, he exhorts the other prisoners to rebel. They have some fun at the guards’ expense, until ultimately, the brutal guards and corrupt captain (Strother Martin) grind them down.

(Alan): I thought BLAZE was big fun. Newman delightfully chewed up acres of Louisiana scenery in this historical romp about legendary Gov. Earl Long and his stripper mistress Blaze Star (nicely limned by Lolita Davidovich). Long was an amazing rascal, and Newman merrily growls his way through writer-director Ron Shelton’s terrif script, bringing him to pulsing, three-dimensional life. Long was a gregarious, well-intentioned, horny but also crooked Southern politician who fell hard for a sexy young girl. The story deals effectively and entertainingly with racism, corruption and hypocrisy, while capturing the ups and downs of one of the era’s most remarkable pols. 

(Sharon): Somehow Newman makes the amoral, selfish, dissolute character of HUD appealing to the audience. Hud doesn’t give a damn about anybody, least of all his father and nephew. Newman strikes the perfect notes of cynicism, cruelty, and sexiness in this film. His scenes with Patricia Neal radiate with sensuality.

(Alan): Director Roland Joffé (Oscar noms for THE KILLING FIELDS and THE MISSION) was nominated for the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear award for FAT MAN & LITTLE B0Y, an intelligent, dramatic, detailed telling of the high-pressure World War II competition to develop an atom bomb before the Germans got one. Newman effectively plays stern Gen. Leslie Groves, who oversaw the project and tried to keep a laboratory-full of brilliant but erratic scientists focused on the goal. Dwight Schultz was strong as Oppenheimer and John Cusack also did a fine job.

(Sharon): SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME established Paul Newman as a leading man in films, and his performance is just as powerful today as it was in 1956. He plays boxer Rocky Graziano, who started out as a street thug, went to jail, was drafted into the army and finally became a successful boxer. Newman creates a fully formed and authentic Rocky; he portrays Rocky’s anger and toughness as well as his sadness and vulnerability. 

(Alan): Newman finally won his acting Oscar for THE HUSTLER’s sequel THE COLOR OF MONEY, which also won noms for writer Richard Price (CLOCKERS, SEA OF LOVE and the greatest TV series of the past 20 years: THE WIRE), supporting actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and art/set directors Boris Leven (eight other Oscar noms and a win for WEST SIDE STORY) and Karen O’Hara. Under Martin Scorsese’s sharp direction, Newman is mesmerizing as a retired pool hustler who takes young hot-shot Tom Cruise under his wing and tries to mold him in to a winning pool player, resulting in Fast Eddy’s unlikely comeback as a competitive player. The film benefits from good character work by Cruise, Mastrantonio, Helen Shaver, John Turturro and Bill Cobbs. 

© Alan Waldman and Sharon Waldman (December 12, 2008)



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in the context of Jan's Rant about THE PIANIST.