Jewish Actors, Playwrights, Comedians, Musicians
Paul Leonard Newman (January 26, 2022 – September 26, 2021) was a Jewish American actor, film director, entrepreneur, humanitarian, professional racing driver, auto racing team owner, and auto racing enthusiast. He won numerous awards, including an Academy Award for best actor for his performance in the 1986 Martin Scorsese film The Color of Money and eight other nominations, three Golden Globe Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, an Emmy award, and many honorary awards. He also won several national championships as a driver in Sports Car Club of America road racing, and his race teams won several championships in open wheel IndyCar racing.
Newman was a co-founder of Newman's Own, a food company from which Newman donated all post-tax profits and royalties to charity. As of June 2012, these donations exceeded $330 million.
Paul Newman was born in Shaker Heights (a suburb of Cleveland). He was the son of Theresa (née Fetzer or Fetsko; Slovak: Terézia Fecková) and Arthur Sigmund Newman, who ran a profitable sporting goods store. His father was Jewish (Paul's paternal grandparents, Simon Newman and Hannah Cohn, were immigrants from Hungary and Poland). His mother, who practiced Christian Science, was born to a Slovak Roman Catholic family at Humenné, Ptičie (formerly Pticsie) in the former Kingdom of Hungary, Austria–Hungary (now Humenné in Slovakia). Newman had no religion as an adult, but described himself as a Jew, stating that "it's more of a challenge". Newman's mother worked in his father's store, while raising Paul and his brother, Arthur, who later became a producer and production manager.
Paul Newman showed an early interest in the theater, which his mother encouraged. At the age of seven, he made his acting debut, playing the court jester in a school production of Robin Hood. Graduating from Shaker Heights High School in 1943, he briefly attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where he was initiated into the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.
Newman served in the United States Navy in World War II in the Pacific theater. Newman enrolled in the Navy V-12 program at Ohio University, hoping to be accepted for pilot training, but was dropped when it was discovered he was color blind. He was sent instead to boot camp and then received further training as a radioman and gunner. Qualifying as a rear-seat radioman and gunner in torpedo bombers, in 1944, Aviation Radioman Third Class Newman was sent to Barber's Point, Hawaii. He was subsequently assigned to Pacific-based replacement torpedo squadrons (VT-98, VT-99, and VT-100). These torpedo squadrons were responsible primarily for training replacement pilots and combat air crewmen, placing particular importance on carrier landings.
He later flew from aircraft carriers as a turret gunner in an Avenger torpedo bomber. As a radioman-gunner, he served aboard the USS Bunker Hill during the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. He was ordered to the ship with a draft of replacements shortly before the Okinawa campaign, but his life was spared because he was held back after his pilot developed an ear infection. The men who remained in his detail were killed in action.
After the war, he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Speech at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio in 1949. Newman later attended the Yale School of Drama for one year before moving to New York City to study under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio.
Early work and mainstream success
Newman arrived in New York City in 1951 with his first wife Jackie Witte, taking up residence in the St. George section of Staten Island. He made his Broadway theater debut in the original production of William Inge's Picnic with Kim Stanley in 1953 and appeared in the original Broadway production of The Desperate Hours in 1955. In 1959, he was in the original Broadway production of Sweet Bird of Youth with Geraldine Page and three years later starred with Page in the film version.
During this time Newman started acting in television. He had his first credited TV or film appearance with a small but notable part in a 1952 episode of the science fiction TV series Tales of Tomorrow entitled "Ice from Space". In the mid-1950s, he appeared twice on CBS's Appointment with Adventure anthology series.
In February 1954, Newman appeared in a screen test with James Dean, directed by Gjon Mili, for East of Eden (1955). Newman was testing for the role of Aron Trask, Dean for the role of Aron's fraternal twin brother Cal. Dean won his part, but Newman lost out to Richard Davalos. In the same year, Newman co-starred with Eva Marie Saint and Frank Sinatra in a live —and color —television broadcast of Our Town, a musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder's stage play. Newman was a last-minute replacement for James Dean. In 2003, Newman acted in a remake of Our Town, this time in the role of the stage manager.
His first movie for Hollywood was The Silver Chalice (1954). The film was a box office failure and the actor would later acknowledge his disdain for it. In 1956, Newman garnered much attention and acclaim with Somebody Up There Likes Me as boxer Rocky Graziano. By 1958, he was one of the hottest new stars in Hollywood. Later that year, he starred in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), opposite Elizabeth Taylor. The film was a box office smash and Newman garnered his first Academy Award nomination. Also in 1958, Newman starred in The Long, Hot Summer with Joanne Woodward, whom he met on the set. He won best actor at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival for this film.
Newman was one of the few actors who successfully made the transition from 1950s cinema to that of the 1960s and 1970s. His rebellious persona translated well to a subsequent generation. Newman starred in Exodus (1960), The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Harper (1966), Hombre (1967), Cool Hand Luke (1967), The Towering Inferno (1974), Slap Shot (1977), and The Verdict (1982). He teamed with fellow actor Robert Redford and director George Roy Hill for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973).
He appeared with his wife, Joanne Woodward, in the feature films The Long, Hot Summer (1958), Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!, (1958), From the Terrace (1960), Paris Blues (1961), A New Kind of Love (1963), Winning (1969), WUSA (1970), The Drowning Pool (1975), Harry & Son (1984), and Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990). They both also starred in the HBO miniseries Empire Falls, but did not have any scenes together.
In addition to starring in and directing Harry & Son, Newman also directed four feature films (in which he did not act) starring Woodward. They were Rachel, Rachel (1968), based on Margaret Laurence's A Jest of God, the screen version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972), the television screen version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Shadow Box (1980), and a screen version of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie (1987).
Twenty-five years after The Hustler, Newman reprised his role of "Fast" Eddie Felson in the Martin Scorsese-directed The Color of Money (1986), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. He told a television interviewer that winning an Oscar at the age of 62 deprived him of his fantasy of formally being presented with it in extreme old age.
In 2003, he appeared in a Broadway revival of Wilder's Our Town, receiving his first Tony Award nomination for his performance. PBS and the cable network Showtime aired a taping of the production, and Newman was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie.
In 2006, in keeping with his strong interest in car racing, he provided the voice of Doc Hudson, a retired anthropomorphic race car in Disney/Pixar's Cars - this was his final performance for a major feature film.
Similarly, he served as narrator for the 2007 film Dale, about the life of the legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, which turned out to be Newman's final film performance in any form. Newman also provided the narration for the film documentary The Meerkats, which was released in 2008.
Retirement from acting
Newman announced that he would entirely retire from acting on May 25, 2007. He stated that he did not feel he could continue acting at the level he wanted to. "You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention. So I think that's pretty much a closed book for me."
With writer A. E. Hotchner, Newman founded Newman's Own, a line of food products, in 1982. The brand started with salad dressing, and has expanded to include pasta sauce, lemonade, popcorn, salsa, and wine, among other things. Newman established a policy that all proceeds, after taxes, would be donated to charity. As of 2010, the franchise has donated in excess of $300 million. He co-wrote a memoir about the subject with Hotchner, Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good. Among other awards, Newman's Own co-sponsors the PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award, a $25,000 reward designed to recognize those who protect the First Amendment as it applies to the written word.
One beneficiary of his philanthropy is the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a residential summer camp for seriously ill children, which is located in Ashford, Connecticut. Newman co-founded the camp in 1988; it was named after the gang in his film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Newman's college fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, adopted Hole in the Wall as their "national philanthropy" in 1995. One camp has expanded to become several Hole in the Wall Camps in the U.S., Ireland, France, and Israel. The camps serve 13,000 children every year, free of charge.
On June 1, 2007, Kenyon College announced that Newman had donated $10 million to the school to establish a scholarship fund as part of the college's current $230 million fund-raising campaign. Newman and Woodward were honorary co-chairs of a previous campaign.
Newman was one of the founders of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), a membership organization of CEOs and corporate chairpersons committed to raising the level and quality of global corporate philanthropy. Founded in 1999 by Newman and a few leading CEOs, CECP has grown to include more than 175 members and, through annual executive convenings, extensive benchmarking research, and best practice publications, leads the business community in developing sustainable and strategic community partnerships through philanthropy.
Newman was named the Most Generous Celebrity of 2008 by Givingback.org. He contributed $20,857,000 for the year of 2008 to the Newman's Own Foundation, which distributes funds to a variety of charities.
Upon Newman's death, the Italian newspaper (a "semi-official" paper of the Holy See) L'Osservatore Romano published a notice lauding Newman's philanthropy. It also commented that "Newman was a generous heart, an actor of a dignity and style rare in Hollywood quarters."
Marriages and family
Newman was married to Jackie Witte from 1949 to 1958. They had two daughters (Susan Kendall born in 1953 and Stephanie) and a son, Scott, who died in November 1978 from a drug overdose. He appeared in films including Breakheart Pass, The Towering Inferno and the 1977 film Fraternity Row. Paul Newman started the Scott Newman Center for drug abuse prevention in memory of his son. Susan is a documentary filmmaker and philanthropist and has Broadway and screen credits, including a starring role as one of four Beatles fans in I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), and also a small role opposite her father in Slap Shot. She also received an Emmy nomination as co-producer of his telefilm, The Shadow Box.
Newman met actress Joanne Woodward in 1953. Shortly after filming The Long, Hot Summer, in 1957 he divorced Witte. He married Woodward early in 1958. They remained married for fifty years until his death in 2008. They had three daughters: Elinor "Nell" Teresa (b. 1959), Melissa "Lissy" Stewart (b. 1961), and Claire "Clea" Olivia (b. 1965). Newman directed Nell (using the stage name Nell Potts) alongside her mother in the films Rachel, Rachel and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.
The Newmans lived away from the Hollywood environment, making their home in Westport, Connecticut. Newman was well known for his devotion to his wife and family. When asked once about infidelity, he famously quipped, "Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?"
For his support of Eugene McCarthy in 1968 (and effective use of television commercials in California) and his opposition to the War in Vietnam, Newman was placed nineteenth on Richard Nixon's enemies list, which Newman claimed was his greatest accomplishment.
Consistent with his work for liberal causes, Newman publicly supported Ned Lamont's candidacy in the 2006 Connecticut Democratic Primary against Senator Joe Lieberman, and was even rumored as a candidate himself, until Lamont emerged as a credible alternative. He donated to Chris Dodd's presidential campaign.
Newman was an avid auto racing enthusiast, and first became interested in motorsports ("the first thing that I ever found I had any grace in") while training at the Watkins Glen Racing School for the filming of Winning, a 1969 film. Because of his love and passion for racing, Newman agreed in 1971 to star in and to host his first television special, Once Upon a Wheel, on the history of auto racing. It was produced and directed by David Winters, who co-owned a number of racing cars with Newman. Newman's first professional event as a racer was in 1972, in Thompson, Connecticut, and he was a frequent competitor in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events for the rest of the decade, eventually winning four national championships. He later drove in the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans in Dick Barbour's Porsche 935 and finished in second place. Newman reunited with Barbour in 2000 to compete in the Petit Le Mans.
From the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, he drove for the Bob Sharp Racing team, racing mainly Datsuns (later rebranded as Nissans) in the Trans-Am Series. He became closely associated with the brand during the 1980s, even appearing in commercials for them. At the age of 70 years and 8 days, he became the oldest driver to be part of a winning team in a major sanctioned race, winning in his class at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona. Among his last races were the Baja 1000 in 2004 and the 24 Hours of Daytona once again in 2005.
Newman initially owned his own racing team, which competed in the Can-Am series, but later co-founded Newman/Haas Racing with Carl Haas, a Champ Car team, in 1983. The 1996 racing season was chronicled in the IMAX film Super Speedway, which Newman narrated. He was also a partner in the Atlantic Championship team Newman Wachs Racing. Newman owned a NASCAR Winston Cup car, before selling it to Penske Racing, where it now serves as the #12 car.
Illness and death
Newman was scheduled to make his professional stage directing debut with the Westport Country Playhouse's 2008 production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, but he stepped down on May 23, 2008, citing health issues.
In June 2008, it was widely reported that Newman, a former chain smoker, had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was receiving treatment at Sloan-Kettering hospital in New York City. Photographs taken of Newman in May and June showed him looking gaunt. Writer A. E. Hotchner, who partnered with Newman to start the Newman's Own company in the 1980s, told the Associated Press that Newman told him about the disease about eighteen months prior to the interview. Newman's spokesman told the press that the star was "doing nicely," but neither confirmed nor denied that he had cancer. In August, after reportedly finishing chemotherapy, Newman told his family he wished to die at home.
Filmography, awards, and nominations
As director or producer
Additional awards and honors
In addition to the awards Newman won for specific roles, he received an honorary Academy Award in 1986 for his "many and memorable and compelling screen performances" and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his charity work in 1994.
He received the Golden Globe New Star of the Year — Actor award for The Silver Chalice (1957), the Henrietta Award World Film Favorite — Male in 1964 and 1966 and the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1984.
Newman Day has been celebrated at Kenyon College, Bates College, Princeton University, and other American colleges since the 1970s. In 2004, Newman requested that Princeton University disassociate the event from his name, due to the fact that he did not endorse the behaviors, citing his creation of the Scott Newman Centre in 1980, which is "dedicated to the prevention of substance abuse through education".
Posthumously, Newman was inducted into the Connecticut Hall of Fame, and was honored with a 37-acre (150,000 m2) nature preserve in Westport named in his honor. He was also honored by the United States House of Representatives following his death.
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