The Oscar winner and philanthropist had quietly been battling cancer
Paul Newman, a screen hero for more than half a century and the head of a philanthropic food empire for the past 25 years, has died, it was announced Saturday. He was 83.
Surrounded by his family and close friends at his farmhouse near Westport, Conn., Newman succumbed Friday after a long battle with cancer, according to a statement from publicist Jeff Sanderson.
Famed for his intense blue eyes, his love of car racing and one of the coolest demeanors ever to heat up the silver screen, Newman was nominated for Oscars ten times.
But perhaps his proudest accomplishment, besides his 50-year marriage to actress Joanne Woodward, was starting Newman’s Own, which since 1982 has made popcorn, spaghetti sauce, lemonade and salad dressing and has donated more than $250 million to charities selected by Newman himself.
With more than 80 films and TV productions to his credit, Newman’s career spanned generations. His first Oscar nomination was in 1959 for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and his most recent was in 2003 for Road to Perdition.
The son of a sporting goods storeowner, the Ohio native enrolled in Ohio’s Kenyon College after his 1946 discharge from the Navy. He married for the first time in 1949, then moved wife Jackie and their young son Scott east, where Newman attended the Yale Drama School and, later, the New York Actors Studio.
Dramatic TV roles came his way, but it was his Broadway debut in 1953, as the sexy stranger in Picnic, that led to a Warner Bros. Hollywood contract and his first movie – the 1954 toga epic The Silver Chalice, which even he considered one of the worst movies ever made.
Still, the looker more than redeemed himself in two screen adaptations of Tennessee Williams dramas, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof costarring Elizabeth Taylor, and Sweet Bird of Youth, with a highly charged Geraldine Page.
In 1957, Newman and Jackie, with whom he also had two daughters, divorced. The next year, he married Woodward, with whom he eventually had another three daughters.
By the ’60s Newman had hit his stride with such career-defining roles as the leads in The Hustler, Hud and Cool Hand Luke. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, followed by The Sting, made him and screen partner Robert Redford the hottest male stars of the ’70s.
Newman won an Oscar for The Color of Money, in 1987. Exactly 20 years later, he announced his retirement from acting, saying, “I’m not able to work anymore … at the level that I would want to. You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention.”
Among his final roles was the voice of Doc Hudson in the 2006 animated movie Cars.
In 1988, Newman and Woodward established the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, named for the outlaws in Butch Cassidy. The eleven camps permit seriously ill youngsters to enjoy the great outdoors – at no cost to the kids or their families.
“I’m a cynical S.O. B.,” Newman said when the camp opened, in Ashford, Conn. “But I have a sense of wonder here.”
After his retirement from acting, Newman, who was based in Westport, Conn., remained active in his charity work (in 2007, he donated $10 million to Kenyon College) and his food business, and even started theater directing for the first time.
Besides Woodward, Newman’s five daughters and several grandchildren survive him. His son, Scott Newman, died following an accidental drug overdose in 1978. In his memory, Paul Newman instituted the Scott Newman Center for drug abuse prevention.