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Green Bay Press-Gazette

Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman, 83, made his mark on the small screen

It's hard to imagine him as anything less than a movie star, anyone other than Butch Cassidy, Hud Bannon, "Fast Eddie" Felson or "Cool Hand" Luke Jackson.

But Paul Newman, who died at 83 from cancer this weekend, started off on the small screen before he got his big break in "Someone Up There Likes Me" (playing the role originally intended for James Dean, who died in a car accident). It's hard to separate Newman from his movie career -- almost blashemy -- but the actor's prolific career touched everything from spaghetti sauce to racing. Television was no stranger in that mix. He continued to make a presence on television, winning an Emmy for best supporting actor more recently for his role on the HBO miniseries "Empire Falls" that he both acted in and produced.

It took me a little bit of digging, but I managed to find an entire episode of "The Kaiser Aluminum Hour" (an NBC anthology show that ran in 1956-57) on YouTube that showcases a young Newman as a soldier trying to weasel his way out of the army. You can see shades of "Cool Hand Luke" in his portrayal of a conniving soldier and although it's in black and white, I promise you can almost see those baby blues that later became his trademark.

Here's a shorter clip from "Empire Falls" in which Newman plays a crusty, money-grabber:

I could wax poetic about the passing of a golden age of television and movies, but I don't have enough decades under my belt for that kind of nostalgic nonsense. Probably nothing I can say will add much more to what has already been written about the man as an actor, philanthropist and racing enthusiast. (Here's a nice interview with NPR from 2003 that's better than any retrospective I've read). Celebrate Newman because he wasn't just another good-looking actor (although, man, those blue eyes still make me swoon a little), but because he was a decent man and we can't have enough of those.

As for me, since I shared a birthday with Newman, I'll probably buy some more Newman's Own (all of it goes to charity), then watch him gallivant in the Old West with real-life best friend Robert Redford in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to say a proper good-bye.

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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