Monday, September 29, 2008

When the great ones leave?

Paul Newman has passed away. Age 83.

We all have role models in our lives.
Different ones at different stages of our lives.
People who inspire us.
Sometimes they are related- father, mother, favorite aunt, etc.
Other times they are teachers, friends, sometimes even strangers.
People who imprint on us.
They leave a mark on us.
You felt a connection.

As a child-my mother would point out to me ones that inspired her.
Sometimes role models can be inherited in such a manner.
Sometimes we agree with these role models, other times, we find our own.
One that my mother eagerly pointed out to me was Paul Newman.

One of my favorite movies as a kid was "The Sting". After I watched Redford, Newman, and Robert Shaw play con men and card sharks. I took it into practice on the school playground- trying to be clever, cheat at cards, sell bubble gum at a hiked price, crack jokes at the playground monitors. I ran around the playground with a soundtrack in my head. That soundtrack was the song the "Entertainer" by Scott Joplin it was used several times in the movie. Sometimes we do this- at least I do. We all have a soundtrack that plays with us in our heads at certain times. There are few dudes in the world that haven't heard "Stayin Alive" and
started walking with a strut.
Trust me.

So I was a Paul Newman fan growing up.
The older I got -the more I watched.
I thought that I knew the majority of his work.
It wasn't until my first year in College that I really got to know his work.
I landed the lead role as Brick in the Tennessee William's play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".

At the time I wasn't really ready to play the role. I had the look, the voice, but not the maturity. Or the confidence. Still a good performance in my eyes.But my early guidance in that role?
Paul Newman.
I was having trouble at 19 understanding all the moments in the play.
The concept of "Mendacity".
If you have ever read the play -you know what I'm talking!
So what does any young actor do when in doubt?
Turn to those who have gone before.
I must have watched Paul Newman's version
of "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" a thousand times.
I studied his southern accent, his movements, his glares, his smiles.
Then my director popped my bubble. He saw what I was doing.
He kicked my ass around the stage a few times.
Built my confidence.
Then guided me to my own performance and individual take on the character.
However -Paul's performance lingered in mine. Once seen not forgotten.
After the show. Months after.
I began watching everything that Paul Newman ever did.
The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Sweet Bird Of Youth,
Harper, Exodus, The Long Hot Summer.
Huge influence in all those stories. All those characters. Bad and good.
My point- a little bit of Paul Newman was in every acting piece I did.
We emulate a bit of what we see, we all project a certain type, a kind of influence and confidence. We attempt to make it our own.
The movies always have a way of bleeding into our souls.
Stories do anyway.

So thanks Paul.

Here are also a few publicity and write up shots from that show. Back in 1992. To be so young...
Every night for this role- I had to show up three hours before the rest of the cast . So that we could plaster my leg in a fake cast. I got a work out every night hopping around on crutches on a raked stage- with a glass of tea in one hand. Good times!

Talk soon.


Paris Cowgirl said...

Love these peeks into your past!

Char said...

My my you are a well rounded guy. No wonder the Cat loves ya. Such talent. Have fun at Ranger

Judy said...

Of all the roles Newman played, Brick in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" was my favorite! Of course, Liz Taylor was wonderful, too! It is one of my all time favorite movies -- up there with Casablanca, Streetcar Named Desire, and Aliens.

eclectic archivist said...

Hey Mike,
My all time Paul Newman movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Very underrated flick. I first saw it in 1969, and have probably seen it 60 plus times since. My kids hate it when I say every line before Butch and Sundance do . "I have vision and the rest of the world wear bifocals" ...Love your Brick!

Anonymous said...

You look so incredibly young in those photos. Holy Moly...What were you 12? Ah, to be young and easily kicked around the stage. Don't you miss those days?

Debra Mc said...

Yet another layer of your complex personality...
You are one interesting dude, and I love your blog.


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