Monday, July 18, 2022

Paul Newman’s lasting Entanglement with Go fast leading Men

As Cool Hand Luke’ moved in a Pretty Big circle…


C’mon ‘Ol slowhand’, Sing it! As Y’all know the words to Eric Clapton’s great Colour of Money’s movie intro theme song It’s In the Way that You Use it…


“It’s In the Way that You Use It, It Comes and It Goes,

It’s In the Way that You Use It, boy don’t You Know,

And if You Lie You’ll Lose It, Feeling will Show,

So don’t You Ever Abuse It, Don’t let It go…”


Trying to Squeeze everything in from the enjoyable (2009) Paul Newman: A Life Biography by Shawn Levy, I decided to attempt splitting it into Three parts, or is the number Five? Or thou number shall be Four? Uhm, better make it 6, Oh Never Mind…


Early in 1954, Newman did a Screen test for a role in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, with a shorter male actor who casually tosses a pocket knife during the test and ultimately wins the role. As the “Shorter Fellow” was somebody named James Dean!


As Dean’s Death in 1955 would have lasting effect upon Paul’s movie career, directly leading to his getting the role in Billy the Kid and his Breakout Film Somebody Up There Likes Me in 1956. Since both roles had been intended for Dean.


As any motor racing Aficionado knows the irony of Dean’s passion for racing and Newman’s later becoming a racing driver Himself, intertwined with two more leading Hollywood Men…


Another famous actor who was ultimately bitten by the racing bug, after his penchant for Fast Cars and Motorcycles first worked with Newman on Somebody Up There Likes Me, credited then as Steven McQueen before their paths crossed again in the late 1960’s.


Like All of His various movie roles, Paul Newman, who’d learned to play trombone, banjo, etc. for various roles, learned the basics for racing when being paid $1.1 million for the film Winning. At the time the Highest amount paid to an Actor for a film.


As we know, from Bondo’, aka bob Bondurant’s recent Death. His first two students of his High Performance Driving School were Newman and Winning co-Star Robert Wagner. As Bondurant began by driving his pupils around track explaining why He was doing what, before they began driving in Datsun 510’s. Progressing to faster  cars before Newman actually lapped Mother Speedway at 143mph! Although the Director told Paul the cameras couldn’t distinguish anything over 120mph, Paul just said He felt Good in the Car!


Filming commenced in 1968 and included locations such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Road America and Riverside. Although the Film’s actual Far-away racing footage was from bobby Unser’s car during the 1968 Indy 500. While the Close-in shots were Paul driving behind the Film Car driven by Roger Ward, who also was hired to instruct Newman on the finer points of racing.


Paul enjoyed taking some of his former U.S. Navy Pilot Buddies for a few “Hot laps” around Elkhart Lake’s legendous’ road America track. Noting having to wrench Thar Hand off of the Rollbar. And Cackling loudly He’d scared the Crap outta them!


Winning was the first film produced by a new company set-up between Newman’s former Agent John Foreman and Himself, called Newman Foreman Productions. As Foreman had wanted to become a Producer, which was considered taboo for Agents…


Their second motion picture was the acclaimed Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, for which Newman initially planned on playing the younger Sundance Kid character, before the Director convinced him He was Butch.


They approached Steve McQueen for the Sundance role, but McQueen who was Jealous of Newman’s Star Power and more importantly earnings, demanded First Star billing for which Newman said, I Don’t do billings! And Flatly said No to McQueen’s proposal, who subsequently “Walked!”


As we All know, the role instead went to Robert Redford, then 32 years old, who’d failed so far to have a major Hit after ten years in the business. As it was Paul’s wife Joanne Woodward who suggested Redford for the part, thinking He’d be perfect. And as We All know, the rest was History! Since I’d argue this was the film that set Redford on the path to Stardom…


As Newman had Boasted one day on Set to Redford, How’s it Feel to be working on a $40 million Film? Which was Newman’s estimate on how much the movie would Gross, even though to that point Paul had Failed to work on a movie that had Grossed Half of that! Yet Newman had woefully underestimated the final Box Office Gross that this run away success would receive. With Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid ultimately Grossing an astounding $102m as in Millions in 1969! For which I did the following Math to try putting it into perspective…


$1 million in 1969 is worth Approx. $7,660,708.45 today! Thus equaling Over Three Quarters of A Billion Dollars in today’s values, i.e.; $781,392,262 Freakin Greenbacks, Shiesa!


I find it interesting how such leading Men in Hollywood such as Steve McQueen had created His Solar Productions company, first used on the Mega Hit movie bullitt, and then on Le Mans released in 1971. While Paul had His Newman Foreman Productions company.


Prior to turning Newman down over Sundance’s role, McQueen had introduced Paul and his brother Art Jr. to motorcycle riding in the Desert. And the two would work together in one Hollywood film several years later, when both starred in 1974’s Towering Inferno.


Yet McQueen’s jealousy towards Newman remained strong, with Steve making sure He had First Star billing over Paul, along with having more “lines” in the Film. Although I Don’t think Newman cared, since He was paid his usual $1 million salary for this film!


Initially McQueen was annoyed with the thought of having to “Wet Nurse” Newman’s son Scott on the film. As Scott Newman plays a young, traumatized Fireman. But McQueen actually took a liking to Scott and got him a few more lines in the film…


Afterwards, McQueen, then the Highest Paid Actor in Hollywood took the next four years off from Filming. Returning to the Stage in 1978 before His final two Films were released in 1980. As McQueen Died at the Age of 50 on November 7, 1980 from a Heart Attack while undergoing Surgery for Mesothelioma related Cancer in Mexico.


At age 61, Newman made another memorable film, the only one I think I actually saw at a theatre. When He reprised the role of Fast Eddie Felder from the previous film The Hustler in 1986.


The Color of Money also starred a young, rising Star named Tom Cruise, Hot on the Heels of Top gun. As it would be Newman who introduced Cruise to Competition Driving during filming that summer, when the two Stars went off for a weekend of High Speed Driving. Which makes me think this was the impetus for Cruise doing that fabled Dazes ‘O Blunder’, nee Days of thunder movie…