I used to have a friend who said there were guys, there were handsome guys, and then there was Paul Newman. Today in Obit, Judy Bachrach analyzes the late screen legend's sex appeal, "the ironic twist of features that we might reasonably call Newman’s Own." Bachrach makes the point that while Newman was as bedeviled by his good looks as seriously gorgeous actors always claim to be, he managed to make them work for him in a way almost no pretty boy has done since. And most importantly, he always came across as smart. Why can't everybody just look at his career and see that there's nothing sexier than a class act? It's not a tragedy when someone who's settled his scores and lived a good life dies at a ripe age, but that doesn't mean it can't be a loss.Nowadays we know Newman as a benevolent good guy who gave to charity, made some seriously addictive dressings, and actually put his money where his mouth was in a way few screen icons manage to. Sure, we have a Netflix queue's worth of smoldering, keen-eyed performances, but we've always taken him for granted as a serious person. Bachrach makes the point that he worked hard for the privilege: he was sold as a beefcake. But unlike Brad Pitt, determinedly playing against type in film after film, or Johnny Depp, trying to convince the world he's a character actor, Newman worked with it, playing smart guys who, well, used their looks to their advantage. He could do comedy, he could do drama, but he was never infantile enough to try to pretend to be what he wasn't. And most important, he was a total class act. In addition to Newman's Own, his work with children and for the environment, Newman always seemed like an awesome guy, and his marriage to Joanne Woodward seemed like a model of stability, especially by Hollywood's standards. Newman managed to be iconic without ever getting creepy or remote, using his influence for what good he could, but maintaining normalcy. And, yes, he was one of the most prominent Half-Jews on the scene (yes, some of us make mental notes of this stuff, okay?) It's so easy to say they don't make 'em like they used to, but jeez louise, this is one death that drives that home. We really can't afford to lose any more really amazing people right now, okay? The national psyche can't take it. Newman's Own [Obit]
Sadie, thanks for calling out the difference between a tragedy and a loss. It's a loss for us because we're deprived of his ongoing presence and good works. But it's not a tragedy. He lived a long, and what I would assume was a very happy life.
But will there ever be such a smoking-hot example of male perfection again? I think not, and we are the poorer for it.
RIP, Mr. Newman! We hardly knew ye.