Paul Newman was born on January 26th 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. Newman grew up in a suburb to Cleveland called Shaker Heights where he showed great interest in acting already at high school, where he participated in the local high school productions. He graduated in 1943 and immediately enlisted in the Navy. He spent the remainder of the war in the South Pacific as a radio operator.
He was hoping to become a pilot, but was denied because he is color blind. In 1946 he enrolled at Kenyon College and this time his goal was to pursue an acting career. In 1949 he met and married actress Jacqueline Witte with he had a child, Scott.
Soon after that his father died which postponed his acting career, because he moved back to Shaker Heights to manage his parents’ sporting goods store. However, he grew tired of the business pretty soon and sold his share to his brother and moved with Jacqueline and Scott to New Haven where he enrolled at Yale University’s graduate drama program.
He only spent one year at Yale, then moved to New York to attend the New York Actors Studio. It was at the Actors Studio that Newman learned about method acting, a modern type of acting used by Marlon Brando. Newman won his first television part in 1951, it was the CBS production of “The Aldrich Family”. Two years later he made his first appearance on Brodway, in “Picnic”.
The performance caught the attention of some Warner Bros. executives who signed him up immediately. His first film was THE SILVER CHALICE, an epic costumer that became a huge flop which halted Newman’s career before it had begun. He came back two years later, this time to stay, with SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME, where he played boxer Rocky Graziano. Newman became known as the new Brando.
His next appearance worth mentioning was in THE LONG HOT SUMMER, along with veteran Orson Welles and up-and-coming actress Joanne Woodward, who soon was to become Newman’s second wife.
The following years Newman would appear in films of outstanding quality, beginning with Richard Brooks’ CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, based on Tennessee Williams’ play, where he played opposite Elizabeth Taylor.
Newman’s performance as “Fast” Eddie Felson in THE HUSTLER could very well be his finest hour, it brought him his second Academy Award nomination, his first was for CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. During this period Newman’s charachters were often cynical opportunists with strong sex appeal and seeming contempt for women. He was nominated for the third time for his performance as an amoral Texas rancher in HUD.
His fourth nomination was for his charachterization of a prison inmate in the superb chain-gang drama COOL HAND LUKE. Yes, it’s the film with the famous egg eating bet. 1969 saw Newman team up with Robert Redford in the revisionist western classic BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, which became the highest grossing western of all time.
In 1969 Newman formed the First Actors production company along with Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier and Barbra Streisand. The idea was to create opportunities for performers to produce their own projects, the same idea that United Artists was based on. The project did result in some interesting experiments, but that’s all. Newman returned for a solid smash hit when he re-teamed with Robert Redford in George Roy Hill’s delightful comedy THE STING. It won seven Academy Awards, but still nothing for Newman.
Then he shared first billing with Steve McQueen in the star studded disaster movie THE TOWERING INFERNO. His most notable performance of the late 70′s was as a hockey player/coach in the cult comedy SLAP SHOT. In the beginning of the 80′s Newman left the matinee idol persona for good and accepted more mature roles starting with ABSENCE OF MALICE opposite Sally Field. Then came his sixth Academy Award nomination for his brilliant charachterization of an old, hard drinking lawyer attempting a comeback in THE VERDICT.
Newman did win his Oscar on his seventh attempt, when he reprised his role as “Fast” Eddie Felson in THE COLOR OF MONEY opposite young Tom Cruise. During the 80′s Newman launched “Newman’s Own”, a successful series of food products such as spaghetti sauce and salad dressing, the earnings goes to charity.
He also founded a drug rehabilitation center named after his son Scott, who died in 1978 of an overdose of tranquilizers and alcohol. Newman remains outspoken in important political issues that he labours for. Nowadays he just works in movies when he finds a script that inspires him, such as in 1994 when he appeared in the Coen-brothers’ THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, and in 1995 when he scored his eighth Academy Award nomination for NOBODY’S FOOL.
Newman and Woodward reside in Westport, Connectict where they just celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. They have three daughters together.