Paul Newman, who died in 2008, achieved superstar status by playing charismatic renegades, broken heroes, and winsome anti-heroes in such classic films as The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Verdict and The Color of Money. And for all the diverse parts he played on the silver screen, Newman occupied nearly as many roles off it. He was a loving husband and family man, a fund raiser, sold his own brand of pasta sauce to make millions for charity, drove racing cars, and much more.
Shawn Levy reveals the many sides of this legendary actor in the most comprehensive biography of the star yet published. We see Newman the consummate professional, a stickler for details and a driven worker. In his private life he played the roles of loyal son and brother, supportive husband – married to Joanne Woodward for 50 years – and responsible provider for six children. But Levy shows that Newman and his life were by no means perfect: there was a dalliance with another woman and failings as a father. The death of his only son Scott from a drug overdose in 1978 would haunt Newman for the rest of his life.
Ultimately, the author reveals how Newman was able to blend his many roles and become a man of great integrity who was successful at almost everything he tried. It is a fascinating portrait of an extraordinarily gifted man and will leave readers feeling that they have slipped through the security gate and got to know a movie star who was famously guarded about his private life.
Film critic and biographer Levy (Rat Pack Confidential) embarks on a respectful, thoroughgoing survey of Newman's long life (1925 2008) and massive film career without lingering on emotional and psychological factors. A kind of accidental hero, Newman recognized that his blue-eyed good looks would open doors for him, but by sheer determination and work ethic he muscled his way to the Olympian heights of America's finest actors. Born to middle-class Jewish parents in Shaker Heights, Ohio, he eventually enlisted in the navy then attended Kenyon College on the GI Bill; his early first marriage and dabbling in theater seemed to be a way to avoid having to return home and take over his father's sporting-goods store. He enrolled in Yale's drama department, then in 1952 gave himself a year in New York to prove himself: he hustled small, paying parts and gradually became a part of the Actors Studio, where he claimed to have learned everything he knew about acting. From then on, using his connections shrewdly, he moved from success on Broadway (Picnic, where he met Joanne Woodward, whom he married in 1958) to TV (Our Town) and Hollywood (Somebody Up There Likes Me). From there, the professional accolades began piling up, while Levy also chronicles Newman's stunning success as a race-car driver, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Levy doesn't shy from discussing Newman's shortcomings as a father and husband, yet he leaves a glowing assessment of this legend's career.