Paul Newman, Star of `The Color of Money,' Dead at 83

Paul Newman, the singularly handsome actor with the ice-blue eyes who starred in such films as ``The Color of Money'' and ``Hud'' while pursuing his interests as a racecar driver, businessman and philanthropist, died yesterday at 83 at his home in Westport, Connecticut.

Newman received a diagnosis of cancer more than a year ago. A spokeswoman for Sunshine, Sachs and Associates on behalf of Newman's Own Foundation, confirmed the actor's death. She spoke in a telephone interview.

Paul Leonard Newman was born Jan. 26, 1925, in Cleveland, the younger of two sons to Arthur and Teresa Fetsko Newman.

His father was Cleveland-born of German-Jewish ancestry who became a prosperous businessman as a partner in the Newman-Stern sporting goods store.

Newman's mother was a Hungarian immigrant who arrived in Ohio at age 4. Raised in the Roman Catholic faith, she converted to Christian Science early in her marriage but allowed conventional medical care for her sons. But according to Newman religion wasn't forced on him.

Shortly after his birth, the family moved from Cleveland Heights to nearby Shaker Heights, where he graduated from high school in 1943.

Too slight to excel in high-school sports, Newman performed in stage plays. He had gained some experience from a children's program at the Cleveland Play House, which he joined at his mother's urging.

Newman enrolled at Ohio University for a few months in 1943 while he waited to begin flight training in the U.S. Navy. Partial color blindness disqualified him as a pilot, so he became a radioman, third class. He served in the Pacific but never saw combat.

Returning from World War II, he enrolled at Kenyon College, then an all-male institution in Gambier, Ohio. With the height and muscle he had added during his naval years, Newman joined the second-string football squad. He was kicked off the team for being arrested with five teammates after a barroom brawl in a neighboring town.

Casting about for another extracurricular activity, Newman won the role of Hildy Johnson in the Kenyon production of ``The Front Page.'' He appeared in nine more college plays before he graduated in 1949.

Newman's father wanted him to join the family business, but Newman forestalled a decision by landing a scholarship with a summer stock company in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. At summer's end, he moved to Woodstock, Illinois, to join a company that mounted 16 plays in the winter season. There, he met and married fellow actor Jacqueline Witte in December 1949.

In the spring of 1950, the young couple returned to Cleveland because Newman's father was ill and soon died. Newman worked in the family store while awaiting the birth of his first child.

Bored and restless, he sold his stake in the sporting-goods business in 1951 and moved his wife and son to Connecticut to enroll in the Yale drama school. At the time, Newman planned to earn a master's degree to teach theater at the college level.

He focused on directing but also appeared onstage in a student production, where his looks and magnetic presence impressed William Liebling, an agent in the audience. Liebling offered to help if Newman sought a professional acting career. In the summer of 1952, Newman moved his young family to New York.

Success came so swiftly that he never returned to Yale to complete his degree. He won parts in live television dramas and before year's end was cast in ``Picnic,'' the Broadway play by William Inge that opened in 1953.

He made his Broadway debut at age 27 in ``Picnic,'' but soon abandoned the stage for a more lucrative film career. Newman had a face born for the movies.

Joanne Woodward, the understudy for two female roles, worked alongside Newman for more than a year. Both joined the Actors Studio to refine their skills, and they continued to see each other when they worked in Hollywood on films. Obtaining a divorce from his first wife, with whom he had three children, Newman married Woodward in January 1958.

Shortly after their marriage, Woodward won the Best Actress Academy Award for her starring role in ``The Three Faces of Eve.''

Woodward never matched her husband's box-office draw. She cared little for Hollywood, although she appeared in a number of films with Newman, and was directed by him in movies that included ``Rachel, Rachel'' (1968), an Oscar nominee for best picture.

The couple returned to Broadway in late 2002 for a two-month revival of ``Our Town,'' produced by Westport Country Playhouse when Woodward was its artistic director. Newman, in the role of ``Stage Manager,'' hadn't performed on Broadway for almost 40 years.

Newman portrayed boxers, hustlers and cads in more than 60 films over six decades. He was the popular boxer Rocky Graziano in ``Somebody Up There Likes Me'' (1956), a drifter in ``The Long Hot Summer'' (1958) and ``Sweet Bird of Youth'' (1962), pool shark Eddie Felsen in ``The Hustler'' (1961) and its sequel ``The Color of Money'' (1986), an amoral rancher in ``Hud'' (1963) and bank robber in ``Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'' (1969).

Nominated nine times as an actor for an Academy Award, he won only once, for ``The Color of Money,'' which was directed by Martin Scorsese. His last nomination was for a supporting role in ``Road to Perdition,'' the 2002 movie starring Tom Hanks.

The Academy gave Newman two honorary statuettes: one for ``dedication to his craft'' in 1985 and, in 1993, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

``As an actor Newman always had narrow range, but through quiet persistence and channeled energy, he managed to expand the horizons of his talent to the point where, on some occasions, the mannered, gimmicky style of his early years gave way to a more mellow, balanced technique of underplaying,'' wrote Lawrence J. Quirk in a 1996 biography.

Reassessing the actor's body of work, Quirk concluded that many of Newman's most popular performances ``have not worn at all well in the intervening years.'' He cited ``Hud'' and ``Cool Hand Luke'' among the disappointments.

Newman never abandoned acting, but he found other pursuits that stirred his passions, beginning with auto-racing in his mid- 40s. After training for the 1969 race-car drama ``Winning,'' Newman began to race in earnest.

He won the highest honor for an amateur racer in 1976 with the President's Cup from the Sports Car Club of America. In his 50s, Newman turned professional and raced in events from Daytona to Le Mans. At 70, he won his class and helped teammates finish third overall in Daytona's 24-hour endurance race of 1995.

An outspoken liberal, Newman joined a group of investors in 1995 to buy ``The Nation,'' the left-leaning magazine that boasts of its unprofitability.

Highly profitable is ``Newman's Own,'' the food-product company he started in 1982 with a salad dressing the actor concocted with Hotchner in Westport. The company added more products, including pasta sauces, Lemonade, organic foods and wine.

From the outset, Newman and Hotchner, an author, vowed to funnel their profits to charities. Their cumulative donations totaled $220 million by 2006. Among the beneficiaries are children who attend Newman's ``Hole in the Wall'' camps for youngsters coping with chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

In 1999, Newman and the chief executive officers of two dozen top U.S. companies founded what is now the New York-based Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy. Newman was the group's first chairman.

Newman's only son, Scott, died of a drug overdose in 1978. The Scott Newman Center in Torrance, California, was established two years later to help prevent drug abuse through education.

Newman is survived by his wife and five daughters: Susan and Stephanie from his first marriage, and Elinor Teresa, Melissa and Claire Olivia from his marriage to Woodward.



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