My wife was standing behind me as we read the obituary for Paul Newman, and she’s right: They don’t make movie stars that him anymore.
The 83-year-old actor transcended tectonic shifts in Hollywood, and over the course of an epic career he worked with the best directors—Hitchcock, Scorcese, the Coen Brothers—and actors—Robert Redford, Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Taylor—of the last half century.
“The Sting” is the first movie I remember seeing Newman star in. It remains a favorite, as does “Exodus,” in which Newman plays the über-cool sabra Ari Ben Canaan and leads Jewish refugees on a fugitive ship traveling from Cypress to Palestine. His best line, however, comes from “Cool Hand Luke,” in which he dryly remarks during a card game that “sometimes nothing’s a real cool hand.”
As we all know from the “Chanukah Song,” Paul Newman was Jewish. It came from his father. And though Newman might not have been heckshered, he chose to identify as a Jew “because it is more challenging.”
In June, as news of Newman’s struggle with cancer spread, Helen Jupiter at Jewcy offered this appreciation for a real mensch:
“Altruistic, creative, entrepreneurial, and dedicated to the common good,” she wrote, “Paul Newman is a great symbol of what each of us can achieve when we allow ourselves to be fearlessly—but thoughtfully—guided by our hearts.”