Paul Newman - Biography

"If you don't believe [the legend]... then you can't really take yourself seriously," said reluctant screen idol Paul Newman. "And if you don't take yourself seriously, you've got a chance. It's when you take yourself seriously and you begin to believe all this bullshit that you can really founder." But with nine Lead Actor Oscar nominations to his name and three more Academy Award wins, whether he liked it or not, Paul Newman proved time and again that he was a talent to be taken extremely seriously and a legend.

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Paul Newman was born on January 26, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of a successful Jewish sporting goods-store owner, Arthur, and his Catholic wife Theresa. He began acting during his early school years, and although he studied economics at university after being discharged from the Navy in 1946, he went on to spend a year at Yale University School of Drama. That was followed by a stint at the famed New York Actors Studio.

In 1953 he made his Broadway debut in William Inge's Picnic, where he met understudy Joanne Woodward, the woman who years later would become his second wife. Paul was a success on stage, and Warner Brothers, noting his movie star good looks, quickly signed him to an exclusive contract.

The sudden upturn in his fortunes almost put an end to his fledgling movie career, however. His first film, 1955's The Silver Chalice, in which Paul was cast to replace James Dean after the young actor's untimely death, was a flop. The actor considered the film so bad that when it was scheduled to air on TV years later he took out an advert in a Hollywood newspaper "to apologise for what was happening on NBC at eight o'clock".

However, his next couple of films, including Somebody Up There Likes Me, proved critical and financial winners. Paul and his piercing blue eyes ironically he is colour blind were destined for matinee idol status.

Classic films would follow through the decades, works such as Cat On A Hot Tin Roof for which he scored the first of his eight Lead Actor Oscar nominations The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and The Sting his third collaboration with Robert Redford. His directorial debut, 1968's Rachel, Rachel, was nominated for Best Picture.

In 1949 he married Jacqueline Witte, and they had two daughters and a son together before splitting up less than a decade later. Paul wed actress Joanne Woodward with whom he'd famously co-starred in The Long Hot Summer and From The Terrace in 1958. When asked about their collaborations, he joked: "You should see us when we get back to the bedroom."

The pair, who had three daughters together and lived in Connecticut, enjoyed a famously solid union for more than four decades. Once asked why their relationship had endured, Joanne said it was because Paul made her laugh. "At the time I wasn't sure whether I should be offended," he said of her response. "But now I realise laughter and joy have been the glue in our relationship."

In the Eighties Paul launched Newman's Own, his signature brand of food products covering everything from popcorn to salad dressing, which has brought in over $100 million every cent going to charity. He is also outspoken on a number of political and social issues, including drug abuse, which claimed the life of his only son Scott in 1978.

Paul continued to act in both Hollywood productions and smaller films, and scored an Honorary Oscar in 1986. He finally won a Best Actor statuette the following year for the picture The Color Of Money. A third Oscar arrived to grace his mantelpiece in 1994 when he picked up the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

That same year Paul scored yet another Oscar nod for the film Nobody's Fool. In his 70s he starred alongside Kevin Costner in 1999's Message In A Bottle and filmed Road To Perdition which was to be his last major role with Tom Hanks and Jude Law.

When the star died on 26 September surrounded by family in a passing his daughters described as "private and discreet as the way he had lived his life", he was mourned far beyond Hollywood.

His Butch Cassidy co-star Robert Redford paid tribute, saying: "There is a point where feelings go beyond words... I have lost a real friend."

But perhaps the most fitting eulogy came from George Clooney, who said: "He set the bar too high for the rest of us. Not just actors, but all of us".
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