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Paul Newman’s 5 best

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As we all know by now Paul Newman has passed away. I didn’t feel the need to hop on the story like many movie bloggers, mostly because I want to be able to write something of substance when someone passes away, not just report on it in order to get blog hits. There are bigger movie blogs out there more appropriate for the ‘reporting’ aspect of things. However Paul Newman is one of my favorite actors, his body of work is impressive to say the least and thus in order to honor him I have gathered my 5 favorite Paul Newman movies.

1.) Cool Hand Luke: Easily Paul’s best film, Lucas “Luke” Jackson (Paul Newman) is incarcerated for a petty crime and sentenced to a chain gang. Luke is a sullen and laconic young man whose cool defiance of the sadistic warden and bullying inmates earns him the title “Cool Hand Luke.” But as the prisoners’ respect for Luke grows into hero worship, he finds that he must risk everything in order to live up to their expectations.

2.) The Hustler: The precursor to Paul’s Academy Award win over 20 years later, The Hustler is the story of “Fast” Eddie Felson is a small-time pool hustler with a lot of talent but a self-destructive attitude. His bravado causes him to challenge the legendary “Minnesota Fats” to a high-stakes match, but he loses in a heartbreaking marathon. Now broke and without his long-time manager, Felson faces an uphill battle to regain his confidence and his game. It isn’t until he hits rock bottom that he agrees to join up with ruthless and cutthroat manager Bert Gordon. Gordon agrees to take him on the road to learn the ropes. But Felson soon realizes that making it to the top could cost him his soul, and perhaps his girlfriend. Will he decide that this is too steep a price to pay in time to save himself? I personally think this is better then the film he later won the Academy Award for, but more on that later.

3.) The Sting: In the Chicago of the 1930s, Johnny Hooker’s partner, Luther, is fatally wounded by a victim of one of their scams who turns out to be powerful syndicate boss Doyle Lonnegan. Eager for revenge, Johnny seeks out mutual friend Henry Gondorffn (Paul Newman), a consummate master of the long con. Gondorff rouses himself from his alcoholic inertia and agrees to help Johnny take down the despicable Lonnegan, conscripting an army of grifters ready to avenge their friend’s death.

4.) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) is the smart, savvy leader of The Hole in the Wall Gang, and his sidekick the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) ranks among the best shooters the West has known. This combination of brains and menace allows the duo to roam unchallenged, staging petty robberies when needed and otherwise kicking back at the local brothel. But when a six-pack of the best cowboys in nearby states gather to bring down the rebels, using a Native American tracker to follow them across rivers, over mountains, and through deserts; Butch and Sundance decide to flee. Gathering Sundance’s girlfriend (Katherine Ross), they make their way to Bolivia via New York City. Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and before they know it, the charismatic criminals find themselves in an all-too-familiar situation, this time facing South American enemies.

5.) Color of Money: Martin Scorsese’s THE COLOR OF MONEY picks up where Robert Rossen’s 1961 film THE HUSTLER left off. Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman), now middle-aged, finds the image of his youthful self in a pool hustler named Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise). Trying to relive his past days of glory through the cocky but inexperienced youngster, Fast Eddie takes on the role of Vincent’s manager and mentor. But Fast Eddie didn’t count on having to contend with Vincent’s smart, sexy, and extremely ambitious girlfriend. The three characters become engaged in an emotionally complicated power struggle as they make their way to Atlantic City, where Vincent plans to compete in his first pool tournament. Scorsese’s, as well as Newman’s, love for the character of Fast Eddie shines through in every frame of this sequel, something that didn’t go unnoticed by the academy earning Newman the Best Actor Oscar.


6.) Slap Shot: Although not his best film, this is by far my favorite Paul Newman flick. In Slap Shot Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman), the venerable player-coach of the Charlestown Chiefs, a fifth-rate minor league hockey team. When their blue-collar town falls prey to Rust Belt ills of the 1970s, attendance drops, and the greedy owner starts looking for a buyer, anxious to cash out. Dunlop is informed that the players need to crank up the box office to keep their jobs in what will likely be their last season. To the coach’s dismay, general manager Joe McGrath (Strother Martin) imports the Hanson brothers, a hockey Three Stooges who like to assault soda machines and play with toys. But once Dunlop turns them loose, they’re a Panzer division on ice, and the team starts winning by adopting their bone-crushing style. Although the team is on the upswing, Dunlop’s wife, Francine (Jennifer Warren), seems to be through with him, and the isolated wives of the other players aren’t much happier with their fate.

Thanks Paul, you will be missed…


3 Responses

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  1. He was a great actor, and an even greater man.

    My personal favorite Newman flicks: “Cat on a
    Hot Tin Roof”, “Torn Curtain”, “The Sting” and
    “The Towering Inferno” !!!

    Daniel's Critical Corner

    September 30, 2008 at 4:33 pm

  2. @Daniel – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is an amazing film.

    Its almost scary to think how big his body of work is.


    October 1, 2008 at 10:12 am

  3. Paul Newman was great director too! Lest we forget the greatest of all actors make the best directors.
    The Glass Menagerie, Harry and Son (which he wrote as well) and the first Rachel, Rachel, 1968.
    Shadow Box, Sometimes Great Notions, and the oddly named “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” (impossible to see on film) helped make this talented man a legend.


    November 10, 2008 at 1:10 pm

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