Newman possessed aura that surrounds true stars

  • Follow Steven Uhles

We live in an age without true movie stars. Certainly there are film actors, and some are quite successful. I mean, nobody opens a movie like Tom Cruise, but he lacks the charisma, the electricity, that the truly great stars had.

I bring this up because we lost Paul Newman to cancer last week. He was one of the greatest of Hollywood stars, a man to be admired for his work on the screen and his worth as a human being.

Over the years, he donated more than $200 million from his food products to charity. We should all leave such a wonderful mark on the world.

One of the first films I remember my parents championing was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid . My mother, I would learn later, had long been a fan of Paul Newman.

In preparing this list of five favorite Paul Newman films, I picked, very critically, my favorite roles. There were 16. That's a testament to his power as an actor. When I heard he had died, I teared up a little. That's a testament to his worth as a person. Here are my five favorites and a very fond farewell:

THE HUSTLER (1961): What could have just been a movie about pool-table dreams is elevated to something much more poignant, thanks to Newman's portrayal of small-time hustler Fast Eddie Felson. In his hands, Eddie becomes a metaphor for every small-timer striving to get ahead.

COOL HAND LUKE (1967): On paper, this film about a rebellious convict doing time in a Southern work camp seems pretty small. There are no epic scenarios, no bold, dramatic motifs. Still, Newman managed to turn in a performance so towering that the entire film was elevated to classic status.

BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969): In their best film performances, actors often look as though they aren't working at all. Such is the case with Butch Cassidy . Newman so fully shaped his performance as the smirking outlaw that it's impossible to believe that the actor himself wasn't that crooked man with a decent heart.

SLAP SHOT (1977): By the mid-1970s, Newman had begun to realize that his days as the bright-eyed leading man were probably behind him. Rather than quietly fade away, he continued to find new acting challenges, often in character roles or comedy. One of his finest comedic performances was playing Reggie Dunlop, a player/manager on a failing minor league hockey team. It's the sort of performance only an actor comfortable in his own skin could conjure.

ROAD TO PERDITION (2002): An underrated (although he did receive an Oscar nod) late-career performance, Newman's take on a crime lord reflecting on his life of violence is powerful, not only because the audience instantly buys into the character but also because Newman is able to lend a disreputable soul some semblance of compassion

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.


Search Augusta jobs