Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Paul Newman

When I was fourteen, The Sting was playing in the local cinema.  Every morning my paper route would take me past the theater, where I would pause for five or ten minutes to stare at the poster of my Hollywood boyfriends, Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  My crush on Paul Newman has never abated.  He's everything a girl--this girl anyway--would want in a man:  A charismatic movie star with beautiful blue eyes, a rakish persona, and old-fashioned liberal politics.  He once said that the thing he was most proud of in his life was being on Nixon's Enemies List.  He was Number 19.   Above all of that, he was extremely kind; he felt he'd been lucky in his life and wanted to give to those less fortunate.

And so he did.  Newman and his pal, A.E. Hotchner,  started a company, Newman's Own™, to sell their salad dressing; they soon added other foods: spaghetti sauce, popcorn, salsa, lemonade.  Many a celebrity has started a food or restaurant business; what made Newman's unique is that all of the profits went to charity.  Then he founded the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for children with cancer and other serious illnesses so that they could get away from hospitals and doctors and just have fun being kids.  Incidentally, A.E. Hotchner has written an entertaining book about his friendship and business pursuits with Paul Newman,  Paul and Me: Fifty-three Years of Adventures and Misadventures with My Pal Paul Newman.

Paul Newman himself passed away from cancer in September of 2008; today would have been his eighty-sixth birthday.  To celebrate, I'm going to eat some Newman's Own™ Pizza and watch a few of his movies.  I've compiled a baker's dozen of Newman movies:  Whittling the list down to thirteen was no easy job.  If you've never seen a Paul Newman movie, you're in for a treat.  Pop a movie into your DVD player, grab a Newman's Own™ snack, and enjoy the show.
  1. The Hustler(1961).  Eddie Felson, a two-bit pool hustler, tries to prove he is the best by beating  Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). 
  2. Harper(1966).  Detective Lew Harper is hired to find a missing millionaire. 
  3. Cool Hand Luke(1967).  Luke ends up on a chain gang after a drunken night of cutting off parking meters.
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid(1969).  After a botched train robbery, Butch Casssidy, leader of the Hole in the Wall Gang, and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) flee the states for Bolivia.
  5. The Sting(1973).  Henry Gondorff and Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) are two con men out to pull a big sting on a mob boss (Robert Shaw).  Added bonus is the Scott Joplin ragtime soundtrack.
  6. The Towering Inferno(1974).  Doug Roberts is the architect of the world's tallest building, which is consumed by flames on the night of its dedication ceremony.
  7. Slap Shot(1977).  Coach Reg Dunlop recruits some thuggish players for his third-rate hockey team.
  8. Absence of Malice(1981).  Liquor wholesaler Michael Gallagher is front page news and the target of a murder investigation when a story about him is leaked to a reporter (Sally Field).
  9. The Color of Money(1986).  Fast Eddie Felsen, an aging pool hustler, enters into a lucrative but explosive alliance with a young pool shark (Tom Cruise). 
  10. Nobody's Fool(1994).  Sully Sullivan, a ne'er-do-well handyman, gets a second chance with his estranged son and grandson. 
  11. Twilight(1998).  Aging private eye Harry Ross finds himself in the middle of a Hollywood murder mystery connected to a decades-old missing-person case.
  12. Road to Perdition(2002).  Mob boss John Rooney's adopted son Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) seeks revenge on Rooney's son Michael Jr. (Daniel Craig) for killing his wife and son.
  13. Cars (2006).   Race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) drives into Radiator Springs, a forgotten town on old Route 66, bringing new life to the residents, among them Doc Hudson alias the Fabulous Hudson Hornet (Paul's final film role) and  Fillmore, a 1960 VW microbus (George Carlin).

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