HeroVet: Paul Newman, A Legacy of Film, Family and Philanthropy

Paul Newman

When WWII Navy Veteran Paul Newman died on September 26, tributes came from as far away as Iran as well as from Hollywood colleagues, many of whom wondered how such a global star, solid family man, businessman and philanthropist could defy many of the leading Hollywood conventions and stereotypes.

Thankfully, for the many kids with cancer who benefited from over $250 million of Newman donations, he did, leaving an extraordinary legacy beyond his amazing Hollywood career, as he passed on the after-tax profits of his company, Newman’s Own, the spaghetti sauce, popcorn and lemonade empire he founded and built on the slogan "Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good".

The 10-time Academy Award nominee died peacefully, surrounded by family and close friends at his Westport, CT farmhouse following a long battle with cancer, publicist Jeff Sanderson said Saturday. Choosing a farmhouse in the quiet East Coast suburb of Westport, instead of the glitz & glamour of Los Angeles, Paul Leonard Newman, known as "PL" to friends, appeared in more than 50 movies, including "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting." He earned nine Oscar nominations for acting and won the best actor award for 1986’s "The Color of Money." 

A director and race car driver as well as a legendary actor, Paul Newman's biography is impressive and he was known for his extensive philanthropy. He created the highly successful Newman’s Own food products, which contributed more than $250 million in profits to thousands of charities worldwide, including HELP USA, which helps the homeless to become and remain self-reliant, and The Canary Foundation, dedicated to the research and development of technologies and techniques to detect cancer early. "Our father was a rare symbol of selfless humility, the last to acknowledge what he was doing was special," his daughters said in a written statement. "Intensely private, he quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity."

Taking a Dramatic Turn After Service
Paul Leonard Newman was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on January 26, 1925, the son of a sporting goods storeowner. Paul Newman's military career began when he enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school, but was rejected for pilot training because of color blindness. He fulfilled his three-year tour of duty aboard torpedo bombers in the South Pacific as a radioman third class. After his discharge from the Navy, he attended Kenyon College on an athletic scholarship. When an injury ended his aspirations for a career in sports, he turned to drama, joining a summer stock company.

After the death of his father, he took over the sporting-goods store. He grew restless, however, sold his interest in the store to his brother, and enrolled at the Yale School of Drama. "I wasn’t driven to acting by any inner compulsion," he told a reporter. "I was running away from the sporting goods business."

Paul Newman's movies are renowned in Hollywood. He worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half-century, a group that included Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting." "There is a point where feelings go beyond words," Redford said Saturday. "I have lost a real friend. My life — and this country — is better for his being in it."

Elizabeth Taylor, who co-starred with Newman in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," offered emotional comments. "I loved that man with all my heart. He was goodness and kindness and pure integrity," she said in a statement. "Knowing him, being his friend, was as golden as the sunset and a privilege I’ll never forget."

During a class break, he headed to New York, where he won a role in the CBS television drama, "The Aldrich Family." He was also accepted to study at the famed New York Actors’ Studio, where his classmates included Marlon Brando, James Dean and Karl Malden. His intense good looks combined with obvious talent won him several other television roles. In 1953, his first appearance on Broadway, as Alan Seymour in William Inge’s "Picnic," garnered him a measure of acclaim, and opened up the gates of Hollywood.

Signed to a contract with Warner Brothers, Paul Newman made his film debut the following year in a costume epic called "The Silver Chalice." Personally embarrassed by the movie, Newman took out a full-page ad in one of the trade papers to apologize for his performance, which he considered awful.

Box Office Draw
After returning to Broadway to star in "The Desperate Hours," Paul Newman's movie career got a major boost from his next role, "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956), which drew critical raves for his portrayal of the boxer Rocky Graziano. His developing screen persona of a smoldering, volatile ne’er-do-well in such works as "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), "The Long Hot Summer" (1958), and "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962) riveted audiences and marked him as not only an A list picture actor but a matinee idol as well.

Avoiding typecasting, Paul Newman's films featured him in a variety of roles from a pool champion in "The Hustler" (1961), to the sexually predatory "Hud" (1963), and the prisoner in "Cool Hand Luke" (1967). His title role in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), in which he co-starred with Robert Redford, crowned his achievement as one of the top box office draws of the decade.

Among his other notable films are "The Sting" (1973), in which he also played opposite Redford; "The Drowning Pool" (1975), an offbeat whodunit; "Slap Shot" (1977), one of the few movies ever made about ice hockey; and "The Verdict" (1982), in which he played an alcoholic lawyer attempting to make a comeback.

On-screen success opened other doors and made him a force in Hollywood, even though he chose not to live there. With fellow artists Barbra Streisand, Sidney Poitier, and Steve McQueen, he founded First Artists, a film production company in 1969. He also made his mark on the other side of the camera: He directed his second wife, Joanne Woodward, in the 1968 film "Rachel, Rachel," nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture and garnering him the Best Director award from the New York Film Critics Circle. He was given an honorary Oscar for Career Achievement in 1985 before finally winning the gold for his performance as aging pool shark "Fast Eddie" Felson in Martin Scorsese’s 1986 film, "The Color of Money."

Aging did not set his career back. As he neared his 70th birthday, he continued to win raves – and his ninth nomination as Best Actor – in Robert Benton’s "Nobody’s Fool" (1994). In 2002, he portrayed an Irish mafia boss in the Sam Mendes’ "Road to Perdition" with Tom Hanks.

Social Activism
But Paul Newman has been more than a terrific actor, an inspiring director, and an all-around success on the silver screen. He has established a reputation for his social conscience, devoting himself to a variety of good works. He established the anti-drug Scott Newman Foundation to honor one of his six children, Scott, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 1978, He and second wife Joanne Woodward, one of the most enduring and stable of celebrity marriages, built The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for children with cancer and other life-threatening blood disorders.

The camp is one of the beneficiaries of the profits from "Newman’s Own," a supremely successful line of food products – salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, lemonade, salsa, popcorn – which since it was started in 1982 has earned more than $250 million, all of which he has donated to charity. (He once quipped that he was a bit embarrassed that his salad dressing was grossing more than his movies.)

In 1994, Newman’s philanthropic activities were acknowledged by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presented him with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

About ‘Newman’s Own’
It was 1982 when Paul Newman and his longtime friend, author A. E. Hotchner, decided to start a company with a charitable mission, at that time an unconventional business model. Newman and Hotchner had earlier started the tradition of filling wine bottles with homemade dressing as Christmas gifts for friends. "More! We want more!" their friends clamored. Newman and Hotchner decided that if the dressing was good enough for their pals, it was good enough for the public. So they initiated a unique business venture - Newman’s Own - with the mission of donating 100% of the profits to those in need.

Newman’s Own began with $40,000 and was tested by pals in Newman’s kitchen. Products were critiqued around his ping-pong table and then sold directly to grocery stores. According to the food industry experts at the time, the operation should have lost $1 million in the first year. But after 12 months of business, what started as a joke ended up giving close to $1 million to charity.

Newman attributes the extraordinary success of his company to two policies. First, he insists on top quality, all-natural products with no added preservatives. Second, he gives all after-tax profits to charities both in the United States and abroad. Newman’s Own is about eating good food and doing good at the same time.

The first Newman’s Own product was the now famous Oil & Vinegar Dressing. In the 20+ years since its launch, the brand expanded product offerings to include a collection of salad dressings, pasta sauces, salsas, popcorn, lemonade, and steak sauce. In 1993 the business expanded to include Newman’s daughter, Nell, when she created a line of organic food products called Newman’s Own Organics.

The Hole-In-The-Wall Gang Camp, one of thousands of charities that have received donations from Newman’s Own, holds a special place in the heart of the company. The Hole-In-The-Wall Gang Camp was founded in 1986 when Hotchner and Newman dedicated funds from Newman’s Own to create a special place for children with cancer. The camp welcomes 1,000 kids, free of charge, from across the United States and abroad every summer. It is here that children with cancer or serious blood diseases find camaraderie, joy, and a renewed sense of childhood.

Today, Newman’s Own products are available in all major retail chains in the United States, Canada, Australia, Iceland, England, Germany, Israel, and Japan.

Newman is survived by his wife of 50 years Joanne Woodward, five daughters, two grandsons, and his older brother, Arthur. Newman also had a son Scott, who died in 1978, and is the motivating force behind another Newman foundation, tasked with preventing Drug Abuse through education.

SOURCE: Wire service reports, and Newman’s own Web site, www.newmansown.com

Image Source: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/g3188/young-paul-newman/

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