Who among us didn’t do our share of swooning over Paul Newman?  As a young girl growing up in the late 50s and 60s, I swooned aplenty.  No one was cooler than Paul Newman, not Steve McQueen, nor Sean Connery, or any of the other movie stars who seemed to take themselves far too seriously, tried too hard to be authentic.  I still recall  with humor the ghastly studio still images of male movie stars wearing more makeup than my aged piano teacher.

My southern cousins’, Sylvia and Gloria,  preferred Johnnie [tk] Mathis and, Elvis Pressley, who was then known by both his first and last names.  I was having none of it as I knew in my bones that Paul Newman was cooler, better looking, had gone to college, and was his own man.  What better indicator of his self-possession than the fact that he was married to Joanne Woodward, a woman who eschewed the obvious blonde goddess glamour of the day, kept her own name, acted in films just as he did, and for the longest time enjoyed a reputation as an serious actor greater than did her husband.  Now that was cool.

Remember the shot of Newman in a white tee shirt-I think it was from Cool Hand Luke or Hud-I can’t remember which?  That image underscored Newman’s everyman quality, a refreshing authenticity in the 1960s when so many of us who were young were rebelling against all things parental, established,  and over processed.  We celebrated the authentic and Newman was approachable, youthful, and rumored to drink beer and drive racecars.

Either Christmas or Thanksgiving, I don’t remember which holiday, I’m home from college and feeling every inch the caged beast, resisting my parents’ urge to bridle me-“Why don’t you go visit Mrs. So and So, she’s not been feeling well?”  I wanted no part of the sick and shut-in, I wanted to go out to continue celebrating the liberty that college had produced.  My parents had other ideas.  The holiday was only ten days and we were going to do things as a family.

We compromised on The Sting.  Men in tuxedos for my mother, the music of Scott Joplin for my dad, and for me, Paul Newman.  No one was disappointed.

— Faith Childs

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.