Paul Newman was and is still one of the most beloved actors in history with several films under his belt since the 50s era. Towards the end of his life, Barbara Walters had asked Newman what he imagined his very own epitaph would be. To which the actor replied, “that I was part of my times.” Pretty much this man was a phenomenal actor adapting to whatever film he was in charming the crowd with his sparkling blue eyes.
Ethan Hawke, who directed the documentary The Last Movie Stars about Newman and his relationship with Joanne Woodward stated just how much charisma and talent he had throughout his life. Hawk once told A. Frame, “They weren’t movie stars; they were actors!… I realized they’re the last people where being an actor was what it took to be a movie star.”
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Throughout his long career, we saw him in some classic films such as Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Sting. But there are several other secret hidden films that people have forgotten about in which the actor starred in. Of course, we have his best performances in The Hustler and The Long, Hot Summer, but there are four that have happened to make an impact.
One of his early and best performances came in this little indie film, The Rack. He stars as Edward W. Hall Jr., who is a Korean War veteran filled with guilt. The film is based on a teleplay by Rod Serling’s, The Rack, which follows Hall as he returns to the United States in order to go on trial for collaborating with the enemy. The film sees collaborating with an enemy as a very unforgivable crime. After all, this was based in 1950.
The movie, which is in black and white, basically wants the audience to understand that men in the armed forces are human. They have emotions, they have lives, and understandably they also have a breaking point. The film is very dialogue-heavy, but every speech that Newman makes is harrowing, to say the least. This is just one example of why he became a superstar.
Sweet Bird of Youth
Okay okay, so this one is a little bit well-known, but it deserves a shout-out because it is so good. In the film, Newman plays Chance Wayne, who’s a social climber hanger-on, AKA an escort, who hooks up with a movie star, Alexandria Del Largo. Basically, he thinks that sleeping with her will do wonders for his career. Chance decides to bring her back to his hometown, hoping to win over his ex-girlfriend, yes very scandalous. But he quickly realizes that he’s quite ashamed of the life he’s living.
Newman always seemed to nail these sorts of characters. Yes, men who are considering their life choices and who are hiding their pain behind their sparkling blue eyes. Paige also delivers quite an incredible performance and their chemistry is wonderful. This is definitely worth a watch.
Up next we have the very infamous, Harper, which shows what kind of an actor Newman was. He played Lew Harper, a smooth private detective with quite a great sense of humor. The movie was actually adapted from a book by author Ross Macdonald and was written by the Epic screenwriter William Goldman. He decided to give the film a different rhythm and several characters with quite a good sense of humor. The movie is Neo-noir proving why it belongs to this era.
The film also stars Lauren Bacall, the Femme Fatale of noir films! She portrays a very wealthy woman who appears in his office in order to assign him the case of finding her very very wealthy husband. Apparently, Newman loved playing Harper so much that year later he went on to play him again in The Drowning Pool.
Ah yes, there is The Verdict that we need to talk about. The actor apparently challenged himself with quite an unlikeable character, Frank Galvin. Galvin was an alcoholic, was almost a professional lawyer, and found one last chance to redeem himself after accepting a medical practice case and not settling. Galvan knows that this pretty much might be it for him and decides to take put aside his ego and focuses on something much bigger than himself… justice.
Not only did the movie have great actors, but the people behind the camera were legendary in the Hollywood scene then. You had Sydney Lumet directing, David Mamet writing the script and Newman, Jack Warden and Charlotte Rampling starring in the film. Apparently, Lumen wanted this new and different kind of acting from Newman, and safe to say he didn’t disappoint with his performance.
Speaking about the movie, Lument went on to say in his book “Making Movies,” “When I received yet another script of The Verdict, I reread Mamet’s version, which he’d given me months earlier. I said I would do it if we went back to that script. We did. Paul Newman read it, and we were off and running.”