While Paul Newman was a man of many talents and interests — including political activism, racecar driving and even the founding of Newman’s Own food company — it is his acting and his movies that brought him to, and have kept him in, a prominent place in the hearts and minds of generations.
Newman seemed to have always known he wanted to be an actor, with his first role coming in a play at age 7. His pursuit of the craft was put on hold when he took on a real-life heroic role — serving in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II.
After the war, Newman studied acting at college in Ohio, then moved to New York City in 1951 with his first wife, Jackie Witte. There, he made acting inroads on Broadway.
Newman’s first Hollywood feature was 1954’s The Silver Chalice. But audiences began to truly start noticing this future golden boy of cinema when he starred as boxer Rocky Graziano in the critically acclaimed 1956 film Somebody Up There Likes Me.
In 1958, Newman nabbed his first Oscar nomination opposite Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. That same year, he starred alongside Joanne Woodward in The Long, Hot Summer. Although the two had met a few years earlier, this reconnection must have really stirred something between them. Newman divorced Jackie shortly after wrapping production on the Long, Hot Summer. He married Woodward in 1958, and the two remained a legendary Hollywood couple for the next 50 years until Newman’s passing.
During preparation for his role as a racecar driver in the 1969 film Winning, Newman trained with racers and developed an enthusiasm for motorsports that rivaled his acting passion. He kept that love of driving throughout his life — both as a competitor and later as a cofounder of the highly successful Newman/Haas Racing team of IndyCar drivers.
Newman continued as a fixture on the big screen from the ’60s through the early 2000s, displaying his range in a number of acclaimed films, many of which are recognized as classics.
Among his other renowned feature-film works are 1961’s The Hustler (Newman would eventually win a Best Actor Oscar, his only Oscar win out of many nominations, for reprising the character of “Fast” Eddie Felson in the 1986 follow-up The Color of Money); Cool Hand Luke (1967); Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969); The Sting (1973); Slap Shot (1977); Absence of Malice (1981); The Verdict (1982); Nobody’s Fool (1994); Road to Perdition (2002); and — in a project that combined his acting talent with his interest in racing — the 2006 animated feature Cars, in which he voiced retired racecar Doc Hudson.
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