CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF
Playing Brick, a deeply unhappy man who’d rather drink than have sex with
his wife (Elizabeth Taylor), Newman picked up his first Oscar nomination for
the 1958 adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play.
THE LONG HOT SUMMER
Although they weren’t wed to each other at the time they shot The
Long Hot Summer (1958), this southern-soaked drama would be the first of
more than a half-dozen films the actor and soon-to-be wife Joanne Woodward
would costar in together over five decades.
Newman scored both a box office and critical hit in 1961 playing a pool
hustler who challenges champ Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) to a big
money game. The black-and-white drama earned him a second Oscar nomination
for Best Actor.
Newman was downright bad – as in amoral – when he portrayed the
sexy louse of a title character in the 1963 contemporary western. But that
doesn’t mean he wasn’t good – the brash role nabbed him his third Best
Joining the gumshoe game in 1966, the actor was the coolest of private
detectives as Lew Harper, a role he’d reprise nine years later in The Drowning Pool.
COOL HAND LUKE
Tapping into the rebellious ’60s zeitgeist, Newman scored a huge hit playing
a prison inmate who refused to buckle to authority in Cool Hand
Luke. Possibly helped by the fact that his baby blue eyes were perfectly
complemented by his character’s blue prison togs, the role earned Newman yet
another Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in 1967.
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
“I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals,” Newman (with
Katharine Ross) famously said in his partners-in-crime classic costarring
fellow hunk Robert Redford. The 1969 comedic western, about a pair of
real-life outlaws, was a box-office blockbuster that made a legend out of
the actor and turned the younger Redford into a bankable star.
Newman put his need for speed – off-screen, he was a skilled
race-car-driving enthusiast and had the trophies to prove it – into
Winning (1969), getting behind the wheel to play an ambitious pro
driver aiming to make it to the Indianapolis 500.
Cavorting about as a couple of con men during the Great Depression, Newman
reteamed with Redford in The Sting (1973) and, again, the pairing
proved box-office magic. And who can forget that ragtime score?
THE TOWERING INFERNO
In one of the sillier movies he ever made, Newman played an architect who
helps rescue people when a fancy new skyscraper he has designed goes up in
flames. At the time (1974), big-budget disaster movies were inexplicably in
vogue. (Trivia note: O.J. Simpson plays a security guard in the movie.)
The actor gave one of his sharpest performances as the carousing
player-coach of a minor league hockey team stuck in a backwater town in
Slap Shot (1977), a classic sports movie that is now sparking
talk of a remake in Hollywood.
THE COLOR OF MONEY
After six acting nominations and an honorary Oscar, Newman finally took home
the golden statue when he reprised his role as Hustler pool
sharpie Eddie Felson in The Color of Money (1986), this time
showing a talented newcomer (Tom Cruise) his way around the felt.
As an elderly ne’er-do-well stuck in a small Maine town, Newman again played
a character created by one his favorite novelists, Richard Russo, in the
2005 HBO movie Empire Falls. It was his second pairing with the
Pulitzer Prize winner’s work: He had earlier starred in the adaptation of
Nobody’s Fool (1994), which earned him yet another Oscar nod.
First he returned to Broadway and his theater roots to play the folksy
Narrator, the Stage Manager, in a revival of Thornton Wilder’s Our
Town; then Newman gave an encore performance in a filmed version, which
first aired on PBS in 2003.
ROAD TO PERDITION
For his chilling turn as an aging Mob boss in Road to Perdition (2002), costarring Tom Hanks, Newman snagged his last Oscar nomination
– his tenth (nine for acting, and one for directing 1968’s Rachel, Rachel) – this time for Best Supporting Actor. The role also
would prove to be one of his last on the big screen.