A Tribute to Paul Newman: The Last Rebel Without a Cause Standing

This is a tough one.


    I grew up watching Paul Newman, he was one of my earliest heroes  Paul Newman was cool when cool meant something. The last survivor in a series of anti-hero, “rebels without a cause” actors who rose to fame out of the Actors Studio in the 1950’s. There was Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, James Dean and Newman. Newman liked to portray the underdog, Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler, Luke in Cool Hand Luke, Billy the Kid in The Left Handed Gun. In real life, Newman was the same favoring the underdog. He raised million of dollars for his “Hole in the Wall” camp for severely sick children and donated millions via his Newman’s Own Food Company. Politically a liberal, he fought in favor of civil rights, marched against the Vietnam War, and was proud to have made President Nixon’s enemies list.

    Newman worked with some of the greatest filmmakers of his time. Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Robert Altman, Otto Preminger, Martin Scorsese, Arthur Penn, Richard Brooks and the Coen Brothers. Co-stars included Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Andrews, Sidney Poitier, Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, Tom Cruise, Steve McQueen and of course, his most famous co-star Robert Redford. They made two films together, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. He also co-starred with his talented and beautiful wife Joanne Woodward, in The Long Hot Summer, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, Winning, Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys, From the Terrace and the underrated and little seen Paris Blues.            


    For me this is truly a sad day. His films have been like family. While I never met him, my wife and I did have accidental sighting. It was not too long after he won the Best Actor award for The Color of Money. We were living in New York City at the time and on this particular Saturday night we were walking down the street on our way to dinner on the upper east side and there is this photographer standing outside a restaurant yelling toward a limo that was parked right in front. “Come on just let me get one shot.” My wife and I looked at each other not sure what was going on when suddenly out of the car comes Paul Newman rushing passed the photographer, passed us and right into the restaurant. It was quick, sudden and awesome! I never forgot it.  


The Left Handed Gun

Paris Blues

The Rack


Somebody Up There Likes Me

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Long Hot Summer

Sweet Bird of Youth



Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The Sting

The Drowning Pool


The Verdict

Absence of Malice

The Color of Money


The Hudsucker Proxy

Nobody’s Fool


Road to Perdition 

Read my more in depth tribute from the Halo-17 website:  

  Paul Newman: The Last Rebel Standng


The first link is pretty cool. The second  is from one of my favorites.

























































































































Below is a list of my favorite Paul Newman films. All are highly recommended and I cannot think of a better way to pay tribute to the man, the husband and the actor than to watch any of these:

The Hustler






















Kiss of Death (1947) Henry Hathaway

    Richard Widmark in his screen debut dominates “Kiss of Death”, a fairly suspenseful film noir crime drama. As the crazed psychotic Tommy Udo, Widmark’s portrayal is just plain creepy and his performance alone makes this film a must see. The classic scene where Udo tosses wheelchair bound Mildred Dunnock down a flight of stairs still packs one a hell of a punch. The film stars Victor Mature as Nick Bianco, a small time crook who is caught after a Christmas Eve jewel robbery and sent to jail. Assistant D.A. D’Angelo (Brian Donlevy) tries to persuade Bianco to name his two partners in the robbery but Nick is no stoolie. This typical hoodlum stance however results in a twenty year sentence. Three years later after a visit from Nettie Cavello, a former babysitter for Nick’s family, Nick finds out his wife committed suicide after she was attacked by Pete Rizzo, one of Nick’s accomplices in the jewel robbery. Distraught Nick decides to tell the D’Angelo everything in exchange for a visit to see his two daughters. D’Angelo arranges for Nick to tell his crooked lawyer Howser that Rizzo squealed on him. Howser hires the now free crazed killer Udo to murder Rizzo. When Tommy gets to Rizzo’s apartment, he has already fled and the only person there is his wheelchair bound mother. Upset that Rizzo escaped, Udo ties mother Rizzo to the wheelchair with telephone cord and tosses her down a flight of stairs. Now released from jail, with the help of D’Angelo, Nick marries Nettie and with the two kids, they are living an honest and clean life. However, Nick still has some debt to be paid. D’Angelo wants him to get the goods on Udo. Nick meets with Udo who takes Tommy around the town introducing him to underworld characters, revealing enough information for Nick to tell D’Angelo who can now prosecute Udo. D’Angelo wants Nick who is living under an assumed name with his family, to testify against Udo, swearing that a conviction is a sure thing. Reluctantly Nick testifies however, Udo is found not guilty and released. Now knowing that Nick was a turn coat and squealed Udo is out to kill Nick. The confrontation that follows has Nick setting up a meeting with Udo who despises squealers so much he wants to shoot Nick personally, ignoring his cohorts advise about him being a three time loser if he is caught with a fire arm.  The films ending is fairly standard stuff. Nick survives the shootout and Udo goes to jail. 

In addition, a large problem is its conflicting moral view. First, we are to root for Bianco living the criminal code and not squealing, a position most crime movies take. Then after finding out about his wife’s tragic death Nick turns stoolie and sings his way out of jail. At this point, the film now wants us to accept Nick the canary as the hero of the story.  Maybe this is the reason Udo was made such an evil despicable character so that is Nick’s canary singing does not look that bad when compared to the psychotic Tommy Udo tossing a sick old lady down a flight of stairs.

    Victor Mature is a pretty stiff actor and gives one of his typical performances as Nick Bianco. For Coleen Gray, this was the first time she received screen credit and is decent as the adoring baby sitter with a crush on Nick. Coleen had previously appeared in a couple of other films unbilled. However, as mentioned earlier this is all Richard Widmark’s film. He is just amazing as the crazed wide eyed disturbed Tommy Udo, for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award. Listen and look at Widmark as Udo, the high pitched giggling voice. The hat he wears. It looks like the young Widmark here was auditioning for the role of The Joker for the next upcoming Batman movie.     

I Shot Jesse James (1949) Sam Fuller

    Sam Fuller’s first directorial effort was “I Shot Jesse James”, a fictional account of the outlaw life of Robert Ford. The film insinuates that Ford and Jesse were good friends for a long time, which they were not. Bob’s brother Charley was a member of the gang prior to Bob joining. As a young man, Bob admired Jesse and his criminal exploits, however by the end of 1881, the James gang had disintegrated, Frank James retired from a life of crime and many other members’ were dead, in prison, or they just took off fearing the law was closing in on them. Jessie had planned to retire from the life himself but wanted to do one more robbery. He was living in St Joseph Mo. with his wife and family under the name of Robert Howard. The Ford Brothers were also living in St Joseph under the assumed name of Johnson, posing as relatives of the Howard’s. Jesse’s last robbery was to be of the Platte City Bank. Unknown to Jesse, the Ford Brothers had agreed to accept a $10,000 reward for killing Jesse that was being offered by the Missouri Governor Thomas T. Crittenden. Ford was given ten days to kill Jesse and, in addition, would receive a full pardon. As portrayed in most films on Jesse James, Ford shot Jesse while he had his back turned standing on a stool straightening out a wall hanging. “I Shot Jesse James” uses some real life characters but pretty much fictionalizes how things really were. Preston Foster portrays a character named Kelley who becomes a sheriff and eventually shoots and kill Bob Ford. In real life, Kelley’s name was O’Kelley, and was an unsavory character and certainly never held a sheriff’s badge though he did kill Bob Ford. One day, using a shotgun he walked up to Ford and said “Hello Bob”, as Ford turned, he shot him.  No one is sure why exactly he killed Ford though it has been said that Soapy Smith, another criminal may have convinced him he would be famous for killing Ford. In the film, Smith is portrayed as an old silver miner who takes Ford in with him and they strike it rich together. This is all pure fiction.  Soapy was an organized gangster, a confidence man who ran saloons and built his own criminal empire.

    All that said, Fuller gives us an alternate view of the Jesse James legend focusing on the “dirty little coward” Robert Ford. Fuller’s dark vision of Ford’s life is that of a man haunted by demons after the assassination. He is hunted by gunslingers who want be the man who kills the man who killed Jesse James. He fines himself haunted for his cowardly deed and is even unable to reenact the assassination on stage for money. He loses the girl that he loves who is repulsed by him since he killed Jesse in such a cowardly way. One of the most interesting scenes takes place in a bar when a troubadour enters singing “The Ballad of Jesse James” which includes the words “but that dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard has laid poor Jesse in his grave.” Unbeknown to him, Robert Ford is standing at the bar. When he recognizes Ford, he stops singing but Ford demands that he continues, listening to the words describing him as a traitor and a coward.

    John Ireland, at thirty-five is a bit old to have played Robert Ford who was only twenty when he killed Jesse and thirty when he was murdered himself. The character of Kelley, portrayed by Preston Foster, is not clearly defined, and seems to appear wherever Ford travels. As mentioned, the film takes a different slant on the Jesse James legend. Where most films focus on Jesse, here the focus is on the aftermath of the shooting. Definitely, worth a look as long as you are not looking for a history lesson.     

Doorway to Hell (1930) Archie Mayo

    In Doorway to Hell, Lew Ayres plays gang leader Louis Ricarno who organizes the mob in order to eliminate inter-gang warfare. After the organization is set up with Ricarno in charge, he decides he wants out of the rackets. Discontented gang members don’t like the idea and kidnap Ricarno’s young brother. The kidnapping goes bad when the boy is killed and Ricarno is drawn back in for revenge. The film is entertaining enough, however it is dated much more than other gangland films of its era. Lew Ayres comes off unconvincingly as a gangster, and most of the cast, with the exception of sixth billed James Cagney and Dorothy Mathews who  plays Ayres wife, and is Cagney’s lover, are still in the silent film mode of over acting. Cagney lights up the screen as Ayres right hand man, Mileaway, who takes over the boss’ position upon Ayres departure. Director Archie Mayo keeps most of the violence in long shot or off-screen. The gang warfare scenes right after Ricarno retires are almost comical.  Still the film is entertaining and worth watching from a historical perspective, and especially to watch the young Cagney tear up the screen and for the “shocking” scene in the taxi cab where Mathews removes her marriage ring while cozying up to Cagney.  What’s most interesting is how much Cagney’s charisma shines, just as it did in another early role in “Sinner’s Holiday.” His personality just about over powers everyone else on the screen.


Block-Heads (1938) John G. Blystone

Block-Heads (1938) is one of Laurel and Hardy’s best feature films and one of the last they made for Hal Roach Studios. Roach and Stan were soon in contract disputes resulting in Stan and Ollie leaving the Hal Roach Studios where so much of their great work was done. Unfortunately, after leaving the Roach Studios the teams work declined rarely reaching the quality of their earlier films.

    It is 1917 and World War I is raging. In a foxhole, among the soldiers are Stan and Ollie. The troops are told they are moving out all except for Stan who is to stay behind and guard the trenches until he is relieved. Stan and Ollie say goodbye and Ollie goes off into battle with the rest of the soldiers. Soon it is 1918, the war is over and the soldiers come home, all except for one. Time marches on and so does doughboy Stan, it is now1938, and Stan is still guarding the same trench marching back and forth, until a local pilot who he almost shoots down lands and tells him that the war has been over for twenty years.

    Meanwhile back home Ollie is now married and henpecked, to Mrs. Hardy (Minna Gombell). It is their one year anniversary and Ollie ask permission of his wife to go out and buy her something special, promising he will be back within an hour. On his way out, he first says good morning to Mrs. Gilbert, the beautiful Patricia Ellis, whose husband Mr. Gilbert (Billy Gilbert) is coming home after two months on safari. Ollie then heads toward the elevator meeting James the porter, who is reading a newspaper with headlines about a doughboy who did not know the war has been over for twenty years. Ollie say he cannot imagine anyone being that dumb. Then he sees Stan’s photo in the paper.

   Ollie heads down to the Soldiers Home where he finds Stan sitting in a wheelchair giving him the impression poor Stan lost a leg. They reminisce and Ollie invites Stan home for one of his wife’s great home cooked meals. When they arrive, Mrs. Hardy is not home. Stan asked permission if it is all right for him to smoke. Ollie assures him it is okay, so Stan lights up an imaginary pipe, even lighting the pipe with an imaginary lighter all which, bewilders Ollie. When Mrs. Hardy returns she is not happy to see “another of Ollie’s tramp friends.” She and Ollie get into a big fight resulting in her packing and leaving. From here things just get worst for the duo. Ollie insists on cooking Stan a meal that results with the gas stove exploding. When next door neighbor Mrs. Gilbert comes by and offers to help clean up the mess she is accidentally splashed all over her dress with a bowl of punch. Unfortunately, she locked herself out of her apartment so Ollie offers her a pair his pajamas so she can get out of her wet dress and not catch a cold. Unexpectedly, Mrs. Hardy comes back, causing Ollie to hide Mrs. Gilbert, by throwing slipcovers over her and having her position herself as a chair. Mrs. Hardy finds the house a mess and another argument ensues. When Mrs. Hardy stomps out of the room, Ollie moves Mrs. Gilbert into a large trunk, which Ollie and Stan try to move out of the apartment by claiming Ollie is now moving out. The fighting is over heard by Mr. Gilbert, who is just coming back to his apartment. He tries to calm everyone down only to discover, due to Stan’s big mouth that his wife is in the trunk in Ollie’s pajamas! Stan and Ollie run out of the apartment with Mr. Gilbert, chasing after them with one of his hunting rifles as the film ends. 

   Laurel and Hardy’s best work was in the short two-reelers they produced from the silent days up until 1935 at which time, they completely switched over to feature length films. Block-Heads clocks in at 57 minutes barely making it to feature length status; however, it is one of their best feature films. Block-Heads contains some wonderful surrealistic scenes like Stan’s previously mentioned imaginary pipe smoking and the shadow shades Stan continuously pulls down as the boys are climbing up thirteen flights of stairs (who else would live on the thirteen floor but our luckless heroes). There are plenty of straight out laughs, notably when Ollie first sets eyes on Stan and believes he lost a leg. This entire sequence is just hysterical. 

    What’s wonderful about Laurel and Hardy is how their work always starts at a slow pace and as the film goes along it builds up to a frantic and chaotic ending.  Five writers are credited with the screenplay including Harry Langdon. Look for the great Jimmy Finlayson who makes a cameo appearance in a humorous role as a gentleman who picks a fight with Ollie. While some folks may miss Mae Busch , Minna Gombell is as sharp tongued as Mrs. Hardy with some great lines, for example, when Ollie defends Stan saying he is different from his other friends, she replies, “I’ll say he’s different!”

    One notable fact is the change from the original ending. Today, the film that we see ends with Billy Gilbert shooting at the boys, followed by about a dozen or so men jumping out of apartment windows and running away, presumably all involved in tawdry affairs. The original ending had this scene fading to black and then we fades back in to big game hunter Billy Gilbert’s apartment where we see Stan and Ollie’s heads mounted on Gilbert’s wall along with his other prized shoots. The film ends with Ollie’s famous saying “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.” This ending has been unfortunately snipped from most copies now shown.