iconic ironic glint in his eye

Obituary Before writing this, I was seeing which of the now late Paul Newman’s films I was yet to see. Whenever one of the great old actors dies, it’s good to look back into a career and see what you’ve yet to see and in tribute catch up – I’m watching The Verdict later. What’s surprising is that he didn’t appear in that many films. He wasn’t a journeyman like Michael Caine who at various points was making four or five or more films a year (though he’s cut back a bit lately), only averaged about one film every twelve months.

What earned him the title of great actor was the strike rate, the sheer number of classic films in which he starred. For a while, Newman’s presence in a work guaranteed that even if it wasn’t to be a seminal work, it would at least be entertaining. There’s also a fair few forgotten films. In the same year he shot up South America with the Sundance Kid, he starred in The Secret War of Harry Frigg which looks to prefigure MASH and Buffalo Soldiers in its satirical look at the armed forces and Winning, a riff on the race car formula. Neither has been released on DVD in the UK, are hardly spoken of and look intriguing.

And both probably benefited from Newman’s iconic ironic glint in his eye, his swagger but also his on screen graciousness, never overplaying or leaving his co-stars in the shade. Watch him in both Sundance and The Sting let his co-star Robert Redford have most of the best moments. But he’s was still able to judge when strength really was important and even in later years became the most memorable aspect of the likes of The Road To Perdition and The Hudsucker Proxy. Redford has said in tribute: "My life - and this country - is better for his being in it." Though that’s clearly also true of the whole world.

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