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Commentary: I'll miss the late, great Paul Newman

  • Story Highlights
  • Writer was a child when he first saw Newman; has admired him 30 years
  • Says self-effacing Paul Newman had honor and integrity
  • Handsome, brilliant, funny actor who wasn't afraid of growing old
  • Could make you salute the hero, understand and like the bad guy
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By Todd Leopold Entertainment Producer
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The news of his death came on Saturday.

A charismatic Paul Newman in 1967 in "Cool Hand Luke." Newman knew how to reveal a character's soul.

The death of Paul Newman, the most self-effacing of actors, was announced on the day of the week when it would get the least attention from the news media. It was the day of the week when people would be out working the yard, playing with their children, enjoying a cold one with a college football game.

He died, one hopes, the way he wanted to: quietly, without pity, having lived his life to the fullest.

He raced cars. He gave away millions. He had honor and integrity when he was young, and he wasn't afraid of being old.

No offense to his contemporaries, but can you imagine Warren Beatty in "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge"? Or Robert Redford as the scamp old-timer in "Nobody's Fool"? Newman let himself be old in 1982's "The Verdict." He was in his late 50s at the time.

Maybe Jack Nicholson would be willing. But he still got the (much younger) girl in "As Good as It Gets."

Newman could make you salute the hero, and he could make you sympathize with bad guys. After all, "The Sting's" Henry Gondorff is a con man, pure and simple. When Robert Redford's Johnny Hooker is asked how Gondorff succeeds at cards, he doesn't hesitate in his reply: "He cheats."

And you love Gondorff -- whom we first see as a drunken slob living in an amusement hall -- anyway. That's Newman.

It's also Newman that makes his "Road to Perdition" character, a gangster kingpin now living the elegant life, so haunting. In Newman's eyes you can see a character who's lost his soul; in another actor's performance, he may not have had a soul at all.

When I was a child, fresh from viewings of "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting," I wanted to be Paul Newman. He was handsome, he was funny, he was charitable and adventurous and sharp. He was married to beautiful, intelligent Joanne Woodward, a woman every inch his equal. Who wouldn't want to be Paul Newman?

More than three decades later, I still want to be Paul Newman. To which Paul Newman would probably say, "Bulls---. Be yourself."

I'll do my best. But I'll still miss Paul Newman terribly.

All About Paul NewmanJoanne WoodwardRobert Redford

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