Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman dies at age 83

I went on line this morning to check email and discovered that Paul Newman had died at the age of 83. I'd read that Newman was ill with cancer, so the news wasn't a shock, but it still brought a full measure of sadness. (You can find a complete obituary on The New York Times web site.) I met Newman once. He was doing publicity for "The Verdict," a 1982 movie in which he played an alcoholic lawyer. It was one of those rare times when I was more fan than journalist. I grew up watching Newman, and, in many ways, he was my idea of a movie star. He was handsome, of course, but he also had enough cynicism and rue around the edges to make make his work crackle. Here's what I concluded from meeting Newman: He wasn't self-impressed, and he probably wasn't entirely comfortable being a movie star. He also had a moment's indigestion as he struggled with a hamburger that someone had brought him so that he could eat during a stream of interviews in a Boston hotel room. What does that mean? Not much. Just a memory of a star being human. There'll be plenty of time to assess Newman's career, but for now, sufficient to say: He did much fine work. He left us with many big-screen memories; and he never seemed to feel that he needed to protect an image. I wish I'd really known him, but then maybe, like so many moviegoers who watched him for so many years, I did.

I wrote a longer appreciation for The Rocky Mountain News, which published it on its Web site.

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