Thursday, June 23, 2011

Preview: Paul Newman, The Intensity of Charm

It pains me to see classic movie stars remembered for something other than their brilliant careers. Case in point: I once heard someone refer to Paul Newman as "that guy from the salad dressing." I would've been furious if not so heartbroken. The sad truth remains that for younger generations, they may not actually know that Newman was a movie star of the highest order. So if any of you younglings happen to be reading this, let's have a primer.

Actor. Entrepreneur. Race Car Enthusiast. Philanthropist. THAT is Paul Newman. He's a man that audiences have loved for generations for his variety of endeavors.

It is difficult to find a defining role for Newman. But for many, The Hustler may be what he is remembered for the most. As "Fast Eddie" Felson, Newman charmed audiences everywhere as a small-time pool hustler trying to take on legendary billiard king "Minnesota Fats" (played by Jackie Gleason). A beautifully photographed and edited story of chasing dreams and facing our harsh realities, The Hustler enjoyed both popular and critical success immediately on its release, and 40 years later is now a true classic. Not just a mere sports movie, it's a life movie. Face it with cue in hand, and rack 'em up.

A quarter century later, Newman returned as Fast Eddie in The Color of Money, the sequel directed by Martin Scorsese. It featured Newman as a mentor for a cocky pool protege played by Tom Cruise. Newman won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Actor that year for this role.

In Harper, Paul Newman turns on the charm yet again. Released in 1966, he plays Lew Harper, a cool and cynical private investigator (is there any other kind, really?). Adapted from a novel by legendary screenwriter WIlliam Goldman, Harper is a tale of a P.I. hired to find a missing man and gets embroiled in both seedy characters and an increasingly nefarious kidnapping plot. Or is that a red herring? Is there even more beyond a missing persons case? All the while, he contends with a line of ladies that challenge him in different ways, including: Lauren Becall, Julie Harris, Shirley Winters and an ex-wife played by Janet Leigh.

There's some perceptable homages to Humphrey Bogart's old detective stories, particularly in the casting of Becall, who appeared with her husband (Bogart) in 1946's The Big Sleep. There's also plenty of social commentary (and jaded views) inside this 1960s neo-noir, reflecting the shifting attitudes of the culture at that time.

Newman reprised his role as Lew Harper in a sequel, 1975's The Drowning Pool. In that film, Harper relocates to Louisiana where he has to deal with blackmail, an oil tycoon, and a nympho played by Melanie Griffith. Some guys have such tough luck, huh?

Throughout his career, Newman demonstrated a rare mix of his intense charm and success time and again. A life-long racing fan, he won numerous championships in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing. He was a political activist for many noble causes.

Oh. And as for being "that guy from the salad dressing..."

In the 1980s, Paul started Newman's Own, a venture where he donated all profits to (in Newman's words) "a number of tax-deductible charities and causes, some church-related, others for conservation and ecology and things like that." Since 1982, the foundation has donated over $300 million to various charities.

And of course, let's not forget his initial endeavor: acting. For decades, his performances were always as captivating as those icy blue eyes, forever establishing a level of charm that will eternally be... well, Newman's own.

Showtimes for the films:

The Hustler
Thursday, Jun 30th

Thursday, Jun 30th

Final Notes about the screening

Print out your confirmation e-mail for a FREE game of pool at Buffalo Billiards! (21+ only)

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

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