Paul Newman’s journalistic wake will most likely be saturated with punny titles incorporating his most famous films. “The Hustler’s Last Hustle”, “Hollywood’s Cool Hand”, etc etc. I’ll try to restrain myself from doing this. I also don’t think it will do much good to speculate about what a nice man he was, although he seemed like a HELL of a nice guy. He played a badass on more than one occasion, but he stayed married to the same woman (Joanne Woodward) his entire life, did some humanitarian work and made some damn good lemonade in the process.
I will say this: Paul Newman was the greatest “Strong Silent Type” who ever lived. Period. Not Bogart. Not Brando. Not even James Dean. Bogart was a great, no doubt, but he was always slightly stilted; abstracted from life in a way that only happens in 1940s Hollywood movies. Brando at his best always seemed on the brink of explosion, just as likely to rip off your head as to ravish you. Dean was a boy trapped in a man’s body, always on the brink of tears. And then there was Newman. “Cool Hand Luke” isn’t so much a movie as a study in passive resistance. Lucas Jackson does more damage with a smile than the men with guns could ever do to him. Even at the moment when we see him about to break, after the death of his mother, he pauses only slightly while playing the banjo and then regains his composure. Newman was an actor of tiny moments, and this was one of his best.