Paul Newman’s legacy is distinguished as much by his acts of kindnessand generosity as his superstardom and exceptional acting talent. Kylie Boltin looks at back at two films that helped create the legend.
30 Sep 2008 - 12:16 PM  UPDATED 16 Jan 2014 - 3:43 PM

The Sting (George Roy Hill, 1973) won 7 Oscars in 1973, among them, Best Picture and Best Director. In it, Paul Newman starred as Henry Gondorff, a masterful professional conman alongside Robert Redford's Johnny Hooker (re-teamed following the 1969 classic, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid).


oliet, Illinois, September 1936. Hooker is a grifter – a con artist who scores a windfall of $11,000 on the streets with his partner, Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones) and another accomplice only to lose it all on a bet. Unluckily, the money the three stole was blood money for the crime boss, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). With nowhere to turn, Hooker follows up a lead from Coleman – he travels in search of Gondorff to be mentored on the “big con”.

Gondorff's first line to the younger Hooker is “Glad to meet you kid, you're a real horse's arse” but he still agrees to devise a complicated and dangerous sting on Lonnegan comprised of the best men in Chicago (the 'Quill').

A stylised, elaborate, depression era caper movie, The Sting is constructed with the aid of old fashioned title cards that structure the film into chapters. An epic tale set in a dog-eat-dog world where you can't trust anyone, not even yourself. “Revenge is for suckers,” says Gondorff – all the while edging towards the final 'sting'.

The characters that populate The Sting are outsiders – a style of character that Newman claimed and remade as his own. As emotionally withdrawn ex-sports hero, Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, 1958) Newman earned his first Best Actor Nomination; he was nominated 8 times and won for The Color of Money, (Scorsese, 1987) as well as one nomination for Best Supporting.

Based on the classic American-gothic play by Tennessee Williams, Newman teams up with Elizabeth Taylor – who plays his suffering wife, Maggie ─ to deliver a character in Brick who is disgusted by life, by the mendacity of it all. A violent, mesmerising, unforgettable portrait of a damaged, pained man.

The two struggle in the claustrophobic turbulence of a family falling apart on 28,000 hectares of the richest land in Mississippi:

“Oh Brick, how long does this have to go on, this punishment?” She begs, “Haven't I served my term? Can't I apply for a pardon?

- Lady, that finishing school of yours, sounds like you was running upstairs to tell somebody their house was on fire.”

- “Is it any wonder? You know what I feel like? I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof.”

-“Then jump off the roof, Maggie jump off it. Cats jump off rooves and they land uninjured. Do it. Jump.”

Paul Newman was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio on the 26th of January, 1925 and died on the 26th of September 2008. He acted in over 65 movies over more than 50 years. From a career that embodied Hollywood cinema history, starring roles included The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961), Sweet Bird of Youth (Richard Brooks, 1962), Hud (Martin Ritt, 1963), Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967), The Towering Inferno (John Guillermin and Irwin Allen 1974), The Hudsucker Proxy (Joel Coen, 1994) and Road to Perdition (Sam Mendes, 2002). Newman recently voiced the character of “Doc Hudson” in the 2006 Pixar feature animation, Cars.

Newman won numerous awards across his illustrious career, including the Academy Award, Golden Globe Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, an Emmy award.

His philanthropic contribution to the world continues via his charitable trusts, notably the Hole in the Wall camps for children with terminal illnesses (named after his star turn in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and the food company, Newman's Own, of which all post-tax profits and royalties were donated to charity.

Newman is survived by his actress wife of over 50 years, actress wife Joanne Woodward and five daughters.