The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Paul Newman is Dead

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The death of Paul Newman last weekend brought to mind some of my favorite films made by the quintessential Hollywood antihero.

There is a lot of debate about Newman’s greatest role; many would argue for Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy. Some would say it was his Oscar-winning second turn as Fast Eddie Felsen in The Color of Money. My money is on Luke, though I also liked Newman a lot as Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. None of those is my favorite Newman role, though. That honor goes to Reggie Dunlop in Slapshot.

Once caught in the hilarious and profane web that is Slapshot, it is easy to forget that Reg is a character we really shouldn’t like. He’s a womanizer, a manipulator, immature, foul-mouthed, self-important, and delusional about his declining skills as a player / coach on his own hockey team. He sleeps with the wives of two other players, ignores his own wife until she makes him jealous, tells the team owner her son looks like he might suck cocks some day, blackmails the team president, and schemes to win by rewarding players for goonish behavior on the ice.

Only Newman could make us love such a man. One flash of his blue eyes, one crooked smirk, and Newman’s Reg becomes the kind of guy we want to meet for beers at a dive bar.

It’s Newman’s willingness to play such characters that earned my respect. You probably won’t find anyone who would dispute that he had leading man good looks and talent, and that he could have easily slipped into glamorous, high-profile roles or coasted on his early successes. But Newman kept building, kept climbing, kept pushing the edges all the way to the end of his career. He made women swoon not just with his charm and piercing eyes, but by reminding them that the most irresistable men are the flawed, self-destructive ones that they know are bad for them. Nobody portrayed those antiheroes better than Newman, and he played them time and time again. Nobody else made such a successful career out of it. He was one of a kind.

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Written by seeker70

October 2, 2008 at 1:08 am

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