Actor, director. Born January 26, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio. The youngest child of Theresa and Arthur Newman, who was the owner of a successful sporting goods store, Newman was raised in Cleveland’s affluent suburb of Shaker Heights. As a teenager, he performed in local high school productions and developed an affinity for acting.
Newman graduated high school in 1943, and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy in hopes of pursuing a career in aviation. While awaiting duty, he briefly attended Ohio University but was expelled for misconduct. His naval application was denied when doctors confirmed that he was color-blind, and subsequently he spent the duration of World War II as a radio operator stationed in the South Pacific.
Newman was discharged from the Navy in 1946 and enrolled at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he received a B.A. degree in English. Although he excelled in sports, he was thrown off the football team for misbehavior. He chose the college’s drama program as his new extracurricular activity and began acting in a number of student productions.
In 1949, he met and married Jackie Witte, with whom he had his first child, Scott. The following year, Newman’s father died, causing Paul to temporarily shelve his acting career. For a year he maintained his father’s prosperous business, but later he abandoned retail to wholeheartedly pursue an acting career. He joined the Woodstock Players company of Chicago and performed in summer stock productions.
Newman then moved his family to New Haven, Connecticut, where he enrolled at Yale University's graduate drama program. He spent a year at Yale, after which he headed to New York City. He continued his education by attending the famed New York Actors Studio, studying under Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan. After a brief stint in television, he added Broadway to his resume, appearing in the 1953 production of Picnic. Warner Bros. executives recognized Newman’s strong stage presence and immediately offered the newcomer a film contract.
In 1954, he made his feature film debut in the poorly received costume epic The Silver Chalice. Aware of his unpromising screen debut, he took out a full-page ad in Variety urging audiences not to watch the embarrassing film.
In 1956, Newman redeemed his career by portraying heavyweight champion Rocky Graziano in the biopic Somebody Up There Likes Me. His performance met with critical acclaim and turned Newman into an overnight sensation. The following year he starred opposite up-and-coming actress Joanne Woodward in The Long Hot Summer (1957). The two continued their relationship off-screen, an affair that eventually led Newman to divorce his first wife, Jackie.
In 1958, Newman starred with Elizabeth Taylor in the film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. The film met with critical and commercial success, achieving the highest box office gross of that year. His performance earned him an Oscar nomination and confirmed that he was Hollywood’s most sought after leading man.
Newman maintained his rank as a top box-office draw during the 1960s, and earned three Academy Award nominations in quick succession for his performances in The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), and Cool Hand Luke (1967). The three films were considered American classics and assured Newman’s status as a promising and versatile actor.
In 1968, Newman added directing to his repertoire. Many of his most notable projects starred his wife Joanne Woodward. 1968’s Rachel, Rachel earned him four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Woodward’s title role. In 1972, he directed Woodward in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, and later in The Shadow Box (1980).
1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) featured Newman and Robert Redford in the title roles, and was the highest grossing Western in cinema history. In 1973, Newman reunited with Redford in the Oscar-winning The Sting, a film about two con artists in 1930’s Chicago. As the decade progressed Newman made fewer impressive films. His most notable performance of the late ‘70s was as a minor league hockey coach in the cult classic Slap Shot (1977).
In the 1980s, Newman accepted more mature roles. He played an honest businessman in 1981’s Absence of Malice, and a struggling alcoholic lawyer in the 1982 courtroom drama The Verdict, both of which earned him Oscar nominations. Still devoid of an Oscar win, Newman was recognized by the Academy in 1985 when he received an Honorary Oscar “in recognition for his many memorable and compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft.” Surprisingly, it was not until 1986 that he actually won the coveted Academy Award for Best Actor. This time it was for his reprised role as veteran pool shark Fast Eddie Felson in The Color of Money (1986), which co-starred Hollywood newcomer Tom Cruise (Newman originally played Felson in 1961’s The Hustler).
In 1994, Newman tried his hand at comedy with The Hudsucker Proxy, and he also appeared in the drama Nobody’s Fool, which earned him an eighth Oscar nomination. After a brief hiatus, Newman returned to films in 1998 with the dark drama Twilight, co-starring Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman.
Although well into his 70s, Newman still commands lead roles. Most recently, Newman starred in Where the Money Is (2000), a crime drama co-starring Linda Fiorentino and Dermot Mulroney.
Newman has been considered as the quintessential American sex symbol -- a reputation built by his strong performances and piercing blue eyes. He has appeared in over 60 films, often playing the flawed anti-hero, and has been nominated for Best Actor eight times. In addition to his late film work, he has directed his efforts toward social causes, including the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang Camp (a summer camp for terminally ill children and their families) and The Scott Newman Foundation, named in memory of his only son, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 1978.
In December 2002, at age 77, Newman returned to Broadway after nearly 40 years, to play the stage manager in a revival of the Thornton Wilder classic, Our Town.
He and his wife currently reside in Westport, Connecticut, where most of their time is devoted to these various social undertakings. In 1987, the actor launched “Newman’s Own” line of specialty food products, the proceeds of which earn millions of dollars for charities and welfare causes annually. Newman and Woodward have three daughters and celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in January 1998.
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