Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman, 1925-2008

In a year that's seen some pretty major losses of Hollywood talent, here's another one. Paul Newman was the kind of guy that Hollywood was all about - tough yet sensitive, glamorous yet down-to-earth, one of the most successful stars of his generation yet still possessed of a remarkable integrity and taste for projects that rarely pandered to the lowest denominator. In other words, he was a one-of-a-kind, one of the all-time greats.

I regret to say that I haven't seen a lot of his classics (Hud, Harper, you're getting bumped higher on the to-see list). And while I love his performances ranging from the cocky, youthful brilliance of The Hustler to the wise charm of The Sting to the crotchety comedy of The Hudsucker Proxy, one performance that I want to single out for recognition is what Newman did in The Towering Inferno. It's a big, junky movie, one meant for a mass-market popcorn-chewing audience with very little pretense of quality (even if it did manage a Best Picture nomination). And I would say that it's almost more of a challenge to give a really good performance in a movie like this, with a just-adequate script and nobody really looking for 'quality'. But Newman gives a solid, professional performance, the kind that actually makes you believe in the absurd premise of being trapped in a skyscraper with no sprinkler system. Of course, I'm sure this movie paid a lot better than Nobody's Fool, but still: it's a sign of his consistency and his movie-star charm to shine even in junk. He'll be missed.

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