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Paul Newman: A Life Paperback – May 4, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Film critic and biographer Levy (Rat Pack Confidential) embarks on a respectful, thoroughgoing survey of Newman's long life (1925–2008) and massive film career without lingering on emotional and psychological factors. A kind of accidental hero, Newman recognized that his blue-eyed good looks would open doors for him, but by sheer determination and work ethic he muscled his way to the Olympian heights of America's finest actors. Born to middle-class Jewish parents in Shaker Heights, Ohio, he eventually enlisted in the navy then attended Kenyon College on the GI Bill; his early first marriage and dabbling in theater seemed to be a way to avoid having to return home and take over his father's sporting-goods store. He enrolled in Yale's drama department, then in 1952 gave himself a year in New York to prove himself: he hustled small, paying parts and gradually became a part of the Actors Studio, where he claimed to have learned everything he knew about acting. From then on, using his connections shrewdly, he moved from success on Broadway (Picnic, where he met Joanne Woodward, whom he married in 1958) to TV (Our Town) and Hollywood (Somebody Up There Likes Me). From there, the professional accolades began piling up, while Levy also chronicles Newman's stunning success as a race-car driver, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Levy doesn't shy from discussing Newman's shortcomings as a father and husband, yet he leaves a glowing assessment of this legend's career. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
As many diverse roles as Paul Newman played on the silver screen, he occupied nearly as many roles in his real life. Levy, in this for-the-record biography, shows us Newman as the hungry New York actor, the guilt-ridden divorcé, the matinee idol, the grieving father, the business philanthropist—and many more. Newman thought of himself as essentially two people: the public actor and the private man. Levy shows us that, in fact, Newman had many different identities within those two primary delineations. As the public performer, he was a consummate professional (and, of course, glamorous beyond compare). In this context, he wore not only the hat of leading man but also those of director, fund-raiser, promoter, and stage performer. In his private life, Newman proved just as supple, inhabiting the roles of loyal son and brother, supportive husband (to actress Joanne Woodward) and responsible provider for his six children. But he had his faults. Levy delicately documents Newman’s extramarital dalliances as well as his fatherly failings. Ultimately, the author reveals how Newman was able to blend his many components and become a man of great integrity who was successful at almost everything he tried—including his charitable pursuits. Levy’s representation of the many Newmans will leave readers feeling that they have somehow slipped through the security gate and gotten to know a movie star who was famously guarded about his private life. --Jerry Eberle --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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It was interesting to read about his family life and friendships over the years. I especially enjoyed the parts in which he shared details about the filming of some of his movies, giving details of working with and joking around with fellow stars on the set. Glad I read it.
The book is a comfortable read and was an honest look at the good and the bad of his endeavors and choices. He never felt he had done his best, and always expected more of himself.
Paul Newman seemed to become a deeper, better human being as he became older and older. All of his family can be very proud of the person he became toward the end of his life.
I will say that I got to know him better through this book and discovered a much more complicated actor-racer-entrepreneur-philanthropist than I expected. In fact, in many ways, he was a study of contradictions. He was an inherently self-absorbed human, blessed with many gifts and much luck, who spent his life pursuing personal passions, often ignoring the needs or wishes of those closest to him. His career success meant he was quite the absent father -- especially to the three children of his first marriage -- contributing to his son Scott's early death. He said he was grateful above all else for his 50 year marriage to Joanne Woodward -- but he was not always faithful and made her career, and often, her personal needs second to his own. He was able to provide generously for sick children (Hole in the Wall Camp), develop an amazingly successful business (Newman's Own), and win the admiration of the acting community -- but he had persistent issues with intimacy in relationships with those closest to him. In short, he appears to be the kind of person who was more comfortable giving to the wider world, than to close loved ones.
It's an interesting read. A bit too much detail on the auto racing aspects -- but then, I'm not a fan of that part of his life.