NEW YORK (AFP) — Paul Newman, known for his piercing blue eyes, boyish good looks and stellar performances in scores of hit Hollywood movies, has died, his foundation said Saturday. He was 83.
Newman, who had been battling cancer, passed away on Friday, Newman's Own Foundation said in a statement from Westport, Connecticut.
"Paul Newman's craft was acting. His passion was racing. His love was his family and friends. And his heart and soul were dedicated to helping make the world a better place for all," Foundation Vice-Chairman Robert Forrester said.
Newman played youthful rebels, charming rogues, golden-hearted drunks and amoral opportunists in a career that encompassed more than 50 movies. He was one of the most popular and consistently bankable Hollywood stars in the second half of the 20th century.
Two of his most popular movies included "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) and "The Sting" (1973), in which he co-starred with an equally popular and handsome actor, Robert Redford.
Newman was also a philanthropist, a health food mogul -- he once quipped that his salad dressing was making more money than his movies -- a race car enthusiast and a leftist political activist.
Many however will remember him for his good looks: in 1990 People Magazine chose him as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World, and in 1995 Britain's Empire Magazine picked him as one of the 100 sexiest stars in film history.
Newman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1987, late in his career, for his role as a pool shark named 'Fast Eddie' in "The Color of Money," co-starring with Tom Cruise. Many critics at the time said he was really being awarded the Oscar belatedly for his original performance of the same smarmy character in the 1961 movie "The Hustler."
Born Paul Leonard Newman on January 26, 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio into a well-off middle class family -- his father ran a successful sporting goods chain -- Newman acted in school plays as a youth.
He joined the navy in World War II wanting to be a pilot, but tests showed that he was colorblind. Instead he served as a rear-seat radioman and tail gunner aboard Avenger torpedo bombers in the Pacific theater.
After the war Newman went to college, enrolled in the Yale drama school, and moved to New York where he acted in plays. That job eventually landed him television roles, and then in the movies.
Newman's film career almost ended with his first movie -- he considered his performance in the sword-and-sandal 1954 drama "The Chalice" so mediocre he paid for a page-size ad in a Hollywood trade publication to apologize.
Newman redeemed himself in his next movie, "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956), a portrayal of boxer Rocky Graziano, and by 1958 was nominated for an Oscar as an alcoholic ex-football player in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," starring alongside Elizabeth Taylor.
Hit movies rolled on from there, including "Exodus" (1960), "The Hustler" (1961), "Hud" (1963), "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), "The Towering Inferno" (1974) and "Slap Shot" (1977).
A committed liberal, Newman openly campaigned for several Democratic Party candidates -- which got him onto Republican president Richard Nixon's famous list of enemies in the 1970s.
"Being on president Nixon's enemies list was the highest single honor I've ever received," Newman said in a 2006 interview. "Who knows who's listening to me now and what government list I'm on?"
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