Goodbye, Blue Eyes

Carla Axtman

There are few who travel this earth whose essence transcends beyond a niche or two--into the realm of what can be honestly described as iconic. Paul Newman was one of them. Newman died yesterday, slipping quietly away with apparently little fuss or fanfare.

Rumors of Newman's frail state have circulated for a number of months, so his passing didn't feel shocking to me. But somehow, even though it was expected, the world feels a little less to me today.


Above is a shot of Newman from my personal favorite of his films: Cool Hand Luke. Its an ode to individualism--which resonates with me like few other themes. But Newman's performance touches not so much because he walks his own path. Its the quiet moments of the film, where Newman lets you see into the soul of the character that yanks you into the piece and holds you tight.

Acting was merely one facet of Newman's life. His philanthropy is legendary, but quiet. Newman shunned the noisy spotlight of recognition for his work. He seemed to simply want to do good things--make the world better. Would that all who spread their own wealth and leverage their fame to solve the world's problems be so low-key about it.


Newman was also a political heavyweight, even if he didn't always back the winner. A stalwart for Eugene McCarthy and an activist against the war in Vietnam, Newman even made Nixon's enemies list (he was #19), something which friends say gave Newman endless delight. Newman also backed Ned Lamont in Connecticut, and Lamont fondly remembers Newman today at Firedoglake.

A race car driver, a philanthropist, a chef, a politico...and yeah, the guy could act. He will be sorely missed.

Goodbye, Blue Eyes.

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    Thanks for the tribute, Carla. I miss him already. An unbelievable man, and an unbelievable life.

    Of all of his memorable films, my favorite is "The Verdict." A flawed, damaged human gets to choose between redemption of his career, or redemption of his soul. If you haven't seen it, rent it.

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    My favorite and one of my all-time favorite movies was "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," which provided naming inspiration for Redford's "Sundance Film Festival" and Newman's "Hole in the Wall Gang Camp" for seriously ill kids.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Nice tribute, Carla, to a man who exemplified class to the core.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Thanks Carla. Two favorite lines - What we have heah is a failure to communicate.

    And, Well hell, the fall will probably kill you!

  • dartagnan (unverified)

    A great actor, a great fighter for progressive causes and, most important of all, a fine human being.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    The major newspapers in the U.K., France, Spain, Germany and, presumably, other nations have articles noting the passing of this great star.

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    Paul Newman was a talented man who did good things in his professional career and through his charitable causes. Here's hoping he is racking up a friendly game of 8 ball tonight with Jackie Gleason on the big pool table in the sky.

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    Paul Newman was a class act, a total hunk (at every age), and a great philanthropist. I am sad that he's gone, but damn, what a way to lead a life.

    Three years ago, he came to my hometown of Skowhegan, Maine, to film "Empire Falls," an adaptation of a Pulitzer-prize winning novel about a dying mill town. (So sad, but true... everything's closed except for one pulp and paper mill.) They hired a bunch of locals as extras, and when it came time to pay the high school for the shifts that students had worked, the contribution they made to the school was about ten times what the math said they owed. So even in low-key ways, he contributed a lot wherever he went. I love that he was humble even as he was great.

  • ws (unverified)

    Those that can survive the slew of Hollywood and be a good, or great actor and and still be a good person, seem to be fairly far and few between. Achieving the quality of being quietly intelligent without being overbearingly moody or mean is an accomplishment worth much admiration. I wish Newman could have got one more crackin' good role in before he passed on. He was excellent in a lot of films, those named above, among them. I also liked his portrayal of Rocky Graziano in 'Someone up there must like me', and in a different role in 'The Mackintosh Man'.

  • Logan Gilles (unverified)

    I have a framed picture of Paul from The Color of Money in my house that I pass under every time I go up and down the stairs. He was truly a giant among men.

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)

    I echo all of the wonderful comments that have been made so far and just feel sad that someone I've watched my entire life since I can remember, a giant and a kind man is gone. It's been a total and complete pleasure to have enjoyed you all these years Paul Newman.

  • RW (unverified)

    I've been meditating his lifelong marriage, the many images and quotes scrolled out through the day of P&J together, and his attestations of complete value of his wife. My personal heartfelt wish is in sincerely hoping that, indeed, instead of a "storybook" marriage that was a story carefully maintained for us to believe, that this, indeed was the Grail we all do hope of.

    I've had the instructive good fortune to be with grieving widow who smiled and wore purple and was suffused with the love of her husband and the knowledge that they lived fully, loved completely, unguardedly, honestly. Grief, but no regrets. It is in that woman and in my brother's example of how to live and love that I repose my ideals.

    I'm really wishing upon a star this night that there is a grieving widow with white hair instead of her youth, who is likewise filled with visions of full living, honest and steadfast loving; a legacy also of courage in passion lived with integrity.

    It's my small wish for Joanne, for him, for the kids... and for me too.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Paul Newman, a noble man, an exemplary husband and family man, a compassionate philanthropist and citizen of humankind. I feel blessed that my own life span included his presence in the world.

    I agree with Josh about "The Verdict", an inspired role and film narrative.

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    Rebecca, you and I are clearly kindred spirits. I've been pondering along the same lines today.

    I thought about writing a post about it but have been under the gun to deliver a newsletter article for the historic landmarks board I'm a member of that's due tomorrow and had to focus on that instead.

    But I can say that Newman's attitude towards his wife and how he characterized landing her as one of his greatest achievements very deeply resonated with this hopeless romantic.

    Having finally found and somehow won the affections of the love of my life, I have a much fuller appreciation of how or rather why ol' blue eyes spoke of Woodward the way that he did.

    Perhaps it's an overly sentimental thing to say in polite society but it seems to me that the sundering of their great love is the biggest loss here. Not just for her but for all of us who have to suffer through the inane antics of the Spears' and Federlines which the media seem to be consumed with obsessing over.

  • Randy (unverified)

    Very nice, Carla.

  • Maria (unverified)

    Well said Carla. Thanks for noting this remarkable passing with grace, respect and class...a fitting tribute to a great man.

  • Dave Lister (unverified)

    A great actor and a great person, he will indeed be sorely missed.

    My personal favorite was "Hud".

  • Sue Castner (unverified)

    What's not to love about a guy who said "Once you've seen your face on a bottle of salad dressing, it's hard to take yourself seriously." God speed, Butch!

  • David M. (unverified)

    My favorite Paul Newman movie was THE LIFE & TIMES of JUDGE ROY BEAN. I've even travelled to the museum in southwest Texas in 1986.

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    <h2>Paul Newman, a man who knew that there was "No sense in bein' a grifter if it's the same as bein' a citizen." But a fine citizen as well.</h2>

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