Paul Newman – Gentlemen. Your hats.
Below is a memorable scene between Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in Sam Mendes’ film Road to Perdition, based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, screenplay by David Self.
In the scene, the henchman Michael Sullivan (played by Hanks) is a loyal and brutal thug in the service of local mob boss John Rooney (played by Newman). At this point in the story, John Rooney’s son Connor (played by the actor Daniel Craig) has killed Michael’s wife and son (Annie and Peter). Michael Sullivan’s only surviving child is his oldest boy, Michael.
Michael Sullivan: He murdered Annie and Peter!
John Rooney: There are only murderers in this room. Michael. Open your eyes! This is the life we chose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven.
Michael Sullivan: Michael could.
John Rooney: Then do everything that you can to see that that happens.
I imagine when Paul Newman read that scene in the script to Road to Perdition, he knew at that moment he wanted to help make the film. He wasn’t making many films at that point in his career. And he did not choose to make many thereafter.
I think Paul Newman saw in John Rooney’s words an anthem for all fathers to attempt to pass on to their sons. And I believe Paul Newman’s life was consistent with his beliefs.
Of the obituaries being quickly written about Paul Newman, since the news of his death in the last 24 hours, there is one consistent thing that can be said of all of them: they are long. Paul Newman lived a notorious life and his long list of accolades are commonly known. His contributions to humanity, to sports, and to the arts are a model for all fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.
Paul Newman clearly lived a life intent on making the world more heavenly for our children and future generations. Through to his last movie character, Doc Hudson, in the marvelous film Cars, Newman chose to spend his political and celebrity capital on projects with strong moral content. Pragmatic morality has possibly lost its appeal in modern generations, but if you study Newman’s films, it’s easy to make an argument that his film choices (The Hustler, The Color of Money, Butch Cassidy, Cool Hand Luke, The Verdict, Road to Perdition, Cars, etc.) reveal an earnest desire to extol practical moral principles in an imperfect and often ugly world.
In a book about the actor, the writer Lawrence J. Quirk quotes Newman: “I’d like to be remembered as a guy who tried – tried to be part of his times, tried to help people communicate with one another, tried to find some decency in his own life, tried to extend himself as a human being. Someone who isn’t complacent, who doesn’t cop out.”
His life was full of evidence of his convictions.
He never stopped fighting.
Would that we all could aspire to such heights.
Thank you Paul. I will miss you.
(Click on the image if you wish to view it invidually or larger.)
Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof:
Paul Newman and Piper Laurie in The Hustler:
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, his wife of 49+ years:
Paul Newman and Katherine Ross, in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:
Paul Newman in The Verdict:
Paul Newman and James Garner:
Paul Newman and Robert Redford:
He never stopped fighting.
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