Paul Newman died a couple of weeks ago. Damn him for dying during an incredibly interesting time in American politics! I kept forgetting to blog about him, but he deserves a few thots.
He played most of his great screen roles before I had a chance to see them on the big screen in their initial releases. He was always part of the background of my life, a name I understand as part of Hollywood royalty, no one I thot about much for most of my life. I noticed him a bit more after he started his salad dressing company. The city where he lived, Westport, is one of my favorite cities on the East Coast.
Then I bought my Dad his book, Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good: The Madcap Business Adventure by the Truly Oddest Couple, about how he started his salad dressing company. Dad loved it. It's very funny, but also very poignant.
I like the contrast between what he did with his movie star fame and what Robert Redford did with his. Both of them started organizations that changed a part of the world. Redford's is Sundance, a now-glamorous film festival, with various other assorted associated projects. It's mostly a once-a-year event that attracts a lot of attention, lots of money, and can change individual's lives very quickly. Newman, on the other hand, brewed a batch of salad dressing for some friends in a barn. It's an everyday kind of thing, instead of once a year, it doesn't attract much attention, sitting on a grocery store shelf, and the product by itself doesn't change anyone's life overnight. But Sundance and Newman's Own have both had a dramatic impact on their respective niches of our society.
Reading his obituary and the various tributes that poured out about him, what I noticed was his sense of honesty. Not just integrity, but honesty. He was very honest with himself about what he wanted, who he was, and what he was capable of. And what he was afraid of, and what he loved. He applied that honesty to his characters: he was brutally honest about who were the people that he played. Which forced his audiences to be honest about how they reacted to him. Which made him a great actor, and a great man.
I don't want to thank him for his great roles or the charities he helped out. He's not around to appreciate the thanks, and I have a feeling that he was the sort of humble guy who didn't like a lot of praise. I'd just like to remember that it was really, really nice to have him around for a few decades.