The Paul Newman Collection (Harper / The Drowning Pool / The Left-Handed Gun / The Mackintosh Man / Pocket Money / Somebody Up There Likes Me / The Young Philadelphians)
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Paul Newman Collection, The (DVD)
Paul Newman's career slipped onto an unstoppable track with Somebody Up There Likes Me, his 1956 biopic about boxer Rocky Graziano. Of course that was his second picture, the first being the oft-joked-about bungle The Silver Chalice. Newman's Method-y intensity and dazzling good looks brought him stardom, and his intelligence and uncommon seriousness as an actor kept his movies interesting, especially as he tackled some of the best roles of the "antihero" era--an era he helped create.
Somebody Up There Likes Me is included in The Paul Newman Collection, a bulging seven-DVD package that shakes out thusly: three late-1950s titles from the beginning of his career, one mid-sixties hit, and three lesser films of the early 1970s. It's by no means a "best of" compilation, being limited to Warners and MGM titles, but it gives a flavor of Newman in his prime time. He got the Graziano role after James Dean died, and his performance is a very busy, post-Brando jumble of tics and mumbles. The movie holds up nicely as a boxing picture, and the location NYC shooting won an Oscar for cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg (you can see why director Robert Wise got hired to do West Side Story after this). Sal Mineo and Steve McQueen are in the cast as Newman's fellow j.d.s.
The Left-Handed Gun (1958), based on a teleplay by Gore Vidal, is a truly weird, compulsively watchable artifact from the psychological-Western genre. Newman plays Billy the Kid, glowering and grimacing like a rebel without a cause. It's one of those films that has much more to do with the time it was made than the time it is set; also notable as the big-screen debut for stage and TV director Arthur Penn. The Young Philadelphians (1959) is more conventional, an entertaining soap opera about a young lawyer (Newman) with an old-money Philly name but no money, who gets burned by love and decides to connive his way to the top. Young Robert Vaughn snagged an Oscar nomination for a showy turn as an alcoholic society lad.
Harper (1966) is chockfull of kooky mid-Sixties design and Rat Pack patter (courtesy screenwriter William Goldman). But it must be said that Newman is miscast as the melancholic private eye of Ross Macdonald's literary world, here re-imagined as a wisecracking hepcat who mugs his way through a missing-persons investigation. The supporting cast is a weird over-the-hill gang including Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, and Shelley Winters. That film's hero, Lew Harper (renamed from Macdonald's "Archer"), returned in 1976's The Drowning Pool, a more bearable if somewhat humdrum whodunit set in New Orleans. Newman's wife, Joanne Woodward, has a supporting part, but the picture is most notable for an early Melanie Griffith nymphet role.
Pocket Money (1972) is one of those only-in-the-seventies movies that pairs Newman with Lee Marvin in a drowsy, nearly plotless comedy. Both actors give elaborate performances: Newman plays a numbskull two-bit cattle broker who takes absolutely everything literally, and Marvin is his buddy in Mexico who signs on for an ill-considered cattle-buying job. One of the credited screenwriters is Terrence Malick, and the movie has a highly eccentric feel for language. Finally, The Mackintosh Man (1973) is one of the periodic duds that director John Huston would crank out in his otherwise starry career, with Newman as a spy on an incomprehensible case in England. The first half is a red herring, and Dominique Sanda (more recently of The Conformist) is out of depth with the English language. It's a bleak film with a kind of grinding fascination, and the Maurice Jarre score is catchy but fatally overused. --Robert Horton
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Top customer reviews
It's time now to release The President's Lady and others of its type!
"Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956), the earliest of the collection, is also one of the best. After the fiasco of Newman's film debut, "The Silver Chalice", he left Hollywood for Broadway, but when James Dean died prior to production of this film, Newman was tapped to play Rocky Graziano, and with first-class talent on both sides of the camera (Robert Wise directed), a warm, funny, and ultimately inspiring boxing classic was created. Note Pier Angeli's excellent portrayal as Rocky's wife (certainly an inspiration for 'Adrian' in Stallone's "Rocky"), watch for Steve McQueen's unbilled appearance as a young hood, and try to ignore the sappy theme song, and you'll love this film! (5 stars out of 5)
"The Left-Handed Gun" (1958), Arthur Penn's film directorial debut, is a retelling of the 'Billy the Kid' legend, with the 33-year old Newman a bit 'long in the tooth' as the teen-aged gunfighter. The approach is original, suggesting Billy was more a confused, isolated kid searching for meaning and older authority figures he could believe in, and ultimately becoming a victim of circumstance and his own reputation. Low-budget, but effective, Penn lingers on brooding shots of Newman, and you may see why so many early critics compared him, physically, to Marlon Brando. (3 1/2 stars)
"The Young Philadelphians" (1959), Newman's last film under his initial Warner Brothers contract, offers one of his best early performances. A slickly entertaining drama of a rising young lawyer with a society 'name' and a family secret, director Vincent Sherman plays up the 'white collar/blue collar' conflict in his life, while introducing a top-notch supporting cast, including Brian Keith, Barbara Rush, Alexis Smith, and Oscar-nominated Robert Vaughn. Long, but NEVER dull! (4 1/2 stars)
"Harper" (1966), offers Newman at the top of his form, in this entertaining update of the 'Film Noir' detective film. Down on his luck, but still a man of ethics, Newman tackles a simple case that turns complex, with an A-list group of suspects, including Lauren Bacall, Shelley Winters, Julie Harris, Robert Wagner, and Arthur Hill. Watch for a wonderful turn by Janet Leigh as his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and savor director Jack Smight's colorful homage to classics like "The Big Sleep". (5 stars)
"Pocket Money" (1972), is more a testament to the confusion both Newman and the studios felt over the era's changing public tastes, than a great piece of filmmaking. An off-beat comedy about dim-bulb cowboy Newman and seedy promoter Lee Marvin buying cattle in Mexico, the pace is so laid-back that the story seems to drift, unsure of which direction to take. There are some funny moments, but you may end up scratching your head by the end. (2 stars)
"The MacKintosh Man" (1973), directed by John Huston, is certainly a lesser effort by both director and star, but still quite watchable. A gritty spy drama of agent Newman investigating a 'leak' in British Intelligence, Huston plays up locales in Monte Carlo and his adopted home of Ireland, offers warmly engaging James Mason and Ian Bannen as suspects, and gives audiences a chance to hear Newman attempt an Australian accent! Forget Dominique Sanda's inept performance as spy chief Harry Andrews' daughter, and you might enjoy it! (3 stars)
"The Drowning Pool" (1975), Newman's reprise of his "Harper" character, is a far less successful film than the original; New Orleans doesn't 'suit' Newman's detective persona as well as L.A., and the characters, while off-beat, lack charm. There are 'pluses', however; Joanne Woodward is always watchable, especially playing with her real-life husband, and Melanie Griffith, in the 'nymphet' stage of her career, has some sexy moments. The finale is tense and claustrophobic, and makes up for some of the earlier lack of suspense, but, all in all, the film is routine, at best. (2 1/2 stars)
A mixed bag, to be sure, but Paul Newman is always worth watching!
Most recent customer reviews
Hot Toasty Rag, July 10, 2017
I guess, if you really like westerns, you can give The Left Handed Gun a try.Read more
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