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Paul Newman

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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 Jessica Tandy.

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 Disney/Pixar's popular 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 Associated Press.

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Last updated: October 19, 2010.
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