Although early audiences were often struck by his chiseled features and piercing blue eyes, Newman often took roles that were at odds with his pretty-boy good looks. It was through this progression of loners, criminals and tough guys that he was able to prove his acting talent, ultimately winning an Academy Award in 1987 for The Color Of Money. Newman often stated that he didn’t think audiences wanted to see a good looking guy triumph on his looks and charm alone and chose his roles accordingly.
Born January 26, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, Newman made several television appearances before an inauspicious film debut in 1954’s The Silver Chalice. But his next several roles in such films as Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Rack (both 1956), The Long Hot Summer, The Left Handed Gun and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (all 1958) caused critics and audiences alike to take notice of the actor. His work in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof also earned Newman the first of his ten Academy Award nominations.
Through the numerous anti-establishment characters he played in films like The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Harper (1966), Cool Hand Luke (1967)and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969), he struck a chord with audiences during the social upheaval of the 1960s and early 70s, propelling the actor to iconic status.
In the 80s, Newman continued to find roles that suited his aging persona, such as Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981), The Verdict (1982), Blaze (1990), Nobody’s Fool (1994), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). His last onscreen role, that of an aging gangster in Road To Perdition (2002), earned him a final Academy Award nomination. His last film role was providing the voice of an old former race car in Pixar’s 2006 animated film Cars.
Newman also used his fame as a stepping stone to race car driving, political activism and philanthropy. He donated all the proceeds – more than $250 million – from his Newman’s Own line of foods to a number of charitable organizations.