Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vanity Fair Covers Paul Newman

Photo: Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. By Sid Avery

Patricia Bosworth has penned a lengthy appreciation of Paul Newman.

It's refreshing to find a well researched thoughtfully written long-form piece vying for attention in an internet filled with clipped shoot-from-the-hip blogs. (You can still find such well-crafted work [online] but, usually, it's not concerned with movies or movie stars). This piece has the charm of a long lost era. Check it out when you have the time to enjoy it.

Here's a taste:

Born in 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio, to a prosperous sporting-goods-store owner named Arthur Newman, Paul was raised, with older brother Arthur junior, by their mother, Theresa (a great cook), to be polite, read books, and appreciate music. Idealism and the Golden Rule came naturally to Paul, as did a taste for beer and a love of practical jokes.

He joined the navy during World War II (the war America believed in), and it was while he was in the Pacific serving as a radioman (after being dropped from flight-training school because he was color-blind) on a torpedo plane that he experienced his first brush with "Newman's luck." One afternoon his aircraft was grounded because the pilot he regularly flew with had an ear problem. The rest of his squadron was transferred to another aircraft carrier, which was subsequently hit by a kamikaze, killing the members of his team.


Every Tuesday and Friday, Newman showed up at the Actors Studio for class. He was bowled over by the creative diversity of the place--from the gnarled ancient actress Tamara Dakahanova, who had worked with Konstantin Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theatre, to Martin Ritt, a Group Theatre alum who would later direct Newman in six movies, including Hud. Newman would always credit the Studio as the major influence on his acting. "[It] was fabulous in those days," he told Rolling Stone. He would watch Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, Kim Stanley, and Geraldine Page work on scenes. "I learned so much," he'd say. Years later, when he was president of the Actors Studio, in the 1980s, Newman would talk to us members about what good acting is --"not acting. It's reacting. You gotta be in the moment," he would say, "and always ask yourself the key questions an actor asks: Who am I? What am I doing here? Where am I going as the character?"

How can you resist that?

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