Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Paul Newman

I know, Paul Newman is NOT a Bit Actor.  Well, he was at one time.  Let's take a look.

Paul Newman was born in 1925.  After the war and his stint in the navy, he graduated from college and went to The Actor's Studio in New York.  His Broadway acting was successful, and led to some television and then movie opportunities.  I would say that he did everything right to start an acting career.

Oh, those early television days!  Paul started out in "Tales of Tomorrow" which is a show dim in my memory.  The series only aired for two years, but presented quite a variety of suspense stories, and an equal number of great actors.  Look for Boris Karloff, Gene Lockhart, Leslie Nielsen, Thomas Mitchell, Brian Keith and many others...if you can find the episodes to watch.  The Internet is your best choice here.  It is such a shame that the primitive production value of these early shows keeps them from becoming true collector classics.  Kinescope was the best they could do to preserve the moment.

Next up was a spot on "Suspense," another anthology series of suspenseful stories.  Most of the stars are the same as on Tales, but "Suspense" went on for a few more years, so add a few more stars. 

Newman appeared on "The Aldrich Family" next.  He is listed on IMDb as an 'occasional cast member.'  All of these early roles were short term deals.  He wasn't much more than an extra, I am sure, but I haven't seen any of them. 

He was on "You Are There" three times.  That was an interesting series hosted by Walter Cronkite (1916 - 2009) that attempted bring some history to TV land by taking the audiuence back to the time of certain events and interviewing the people who made it happen.  In one episode, Paul Newman was Plato!  OK.

Paul appeared a few times on "The Web," which had nothing to do with the Internet.  It was live presentations of mysteries.  All this time, he is making friends and watching the performances of some great stars. 

There were a few more television dramas before his big screen debut in The Silver Chalice (1954).  I think he was less than thrilled with the result of his first movie.  It was a box office disaster.  The film starred Virginia Mayo (1920 - 2005) and Jack Palance (1919 - 2006) in a drama about creating the cup of Christ.  It was so bad, that Newman took out a full page ad to apologize for his performance.

So Newman went back to TV for a couple of years.  He got to play Billy the Kid for the first time on "The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse."  We'll come back to Billy the Kid later.

His next film was a starring role, but I don't think Newman was a full fledged star yet.  He played Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and got good reviews. 

As he continued to climb the ladder to stardom, he gets top billing in The Rack (1956) and The Helen Morgan Story (1957) starring Ann Blyth (b. 1928), and then Until They Sail (1957) with Jean Simmons (1929 - 2010) and Joan Fontaine (b. 1917).

1958 was Paul Newman's golden year.  Four films that year.  The Long, Hot Summer; The Left-Handed Gun (yes, Billy the Kid again); Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; and Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!  All hits, and two of them with Joanne Woodward (b. 1930) who would become his long time wife. 

Paul Newman was no longer a Bit Actor.  The rest, as they say, is history.


  1. I've read that Paul Newman said he started his career by "giving a clinic in bad acting in 'The Silver Chalice'" - and heard that the movie nearly ended his career. So thankful it didn't!

    1958 was a banner year for him, but I think he really kicked it into high(er) gear with 'The Hustler' (61), and with 'Hud' (63) he became an icon. Looking at his credits from there on, it seems he worked steadily, every few years appearing in a real classic: 'Cool Hand Luke' (67), 'Butch Cassidy' (69) pretty much until the end of his career.

    I'll always love him, a truly talented, generous and (let's not forget) gorgeous man. Thanks for reminding us of Newman's work before he became one of the biggest stars ever...

  2. Yes, Eve, I am glad he continued to act. In the photo I included Pier Angeli, who never really recovered from Chalice, and eventually committed suicide. There were probably other factors in her life, but that movie didn't help.

    I think Newman came from the same mold at Steve McQueen. And I agree completely about his later films. Always consistent and he was also versatile. He could be a tough guy, show vulnerability, and add some comedy as he did in Butch Cassidy.

  3. It's interesting to be reminded that even a "full blown movie star" like Paul Newman paid his dues.

  4. Yes, Caftan, as most of the big stars had to do. By starting out as Bit Actors, they learn their craft and hone their image.

    I would say that child stars have the toughest time. They start out big and then they grow up and aren't as cute. Think of Macaulay Culkin. His career is not going anywhere.


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