It’s difficult to pick out just 10, but here are some of the greatest roles and scenes in Paul Newman’s long career:
1 CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) Newman received his first Oscar nomination playing Brick Pollitt, an alcoholic ex-football player who resists the advances of his beautiful and frustrated wife Maggie while staying at the Mississippi plantation of his dying father, Big Daddy (Burl Ives).
Best scene: Newman’s performance manages to suggest Brick’s feelings for a deceased former roommate in this heated exchange. Maggie: “You know what I feel like? I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof.” Brick: “Then jump off the roof, Maggie. Jump off it. Cats jump off roofs and land uninjured. Do it. Jump.”
2 THE HUSTLER (1961) Newman entered the first rank of American actors with his portrayal of pool shark Eddie Felson, who challenges Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). Newman was nominated for Best Actor twice for this role, winning his only acting Oscar for reprising it 26 years later in “The Color of Money.”
Best scene: After defeat at the hands of Fats in the Big Apple, Eddie moves to Kentucky, where he hooks up with a sleazy gambler whom he allows to maul his crippled girlfriend (Piper Laurie). One of the most powerful moments comes when Eddie discovers her lifeless body; she’s slashed her wrists. Realizing what he’s lost, a chastened Eddie returns to New York for a climactic match with Fats.
3 HUD (1963) Newman’s charm and appeal to audiences allowed him to go to darker places than earlier Hollywood leading men. He received his third Oscar nomination as the unregenerate heel Hud Bannon, who pursues the flirtatious housekeeper ( Patricia Neal) at the family’s ranch.
Best scene: “The only question I ever ask any woman is, ‘What time is your husband coming home?’ ” brags Hud. The scene where he breaks down her door still has the power to shock.
4 HARPER (1966) Newman re-invented the detective movie as an LA private eye. He reprised the role in “The Drowning Pool” 10 years later.
Best scene: Without a line of dialogue, Newman and screenwriter William Goldman establish the character before the opening credits are over. Harper wakes up in his office, where he has fallen asleep with the TV on. Trying to make coffee, he discovers he’s out – and fishes used grounds out of the wastebasket. The look on his face as he digests his first cup is priceless.
5 COOL HAND LUKE (1967) In arguably his signature role, Newman copped his fourth Best Actor nod as Luke, a rebellious chain-gang prisoner. His nemesis, The Captain (Strother Martin) is inspired by Luke to utter one of the most famous lines in movie history: “What we’ve got here is .. . a failure to communicate.”
Best scenes: Besides a bare-knuckle fight with another prisoner named Dragline (George Kennedy) and a much-imitated sequence of prisoners watching a woman washing a car, one of the best remembered has Luke eating 50 hard-boiled eggs while the other inmates bet on whether he can.
6 BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) Newman appeared in a number of Westerns. His most beloved cast him as the 19th-century outlaw Butch Cassidy opposite Robert Redford’s Sundance Kid.
Best scene: While the courtship scene with Katharine Ross (scored to “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”) is famous, George Roy Hill’s movie is renowned for the scene where after a lengthy chase our heroes are trapped by armed pursuers on a cliff high over a river. When Butch tells the Kid to jump, he protests he can’t swim: “Are you crazy?” Butch replies. “The fall will probably kill you.”
7 THE STING (1973) Newman’s only Best Picture winner was a reunion with Robert Redford. Newman plays master grifter Henry Gondorff in 1936 Chicago, who agrees to help Redford’s Johnny Hooker avenge the murder of his mentor by henchmen of racketeer Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw).
Best scene: To get even, they create a bogus horse-racing parlor where Lonnegan puts down a million-dollar bet on a phony race. During a police raid, Gondoff shoots Hooker, who supposedly set him up, and an FBI agent shoots Gondoff. After Lonnegan flees, it’s all revealed as a sting to separate him from his money.
8 SLAP SHOT (1977) The most popular of Newman’s sports-themed flicks casts him as Reggie Dunlop, the coach of a bush-league hockey team that doesn’t taste success until they start getting violent.
Best scene: Most of Newman’s dialogue was much stronger than anything being delivered by major movie stars during this era. Among his most printable remarks in heckling players, which got big laughs at the time: “Hey Hanrahan! Hanrahan! Hanrahan! Suzanne sucks p – – – y! Hey Hanrahan she’s a dyke! I know, I know! She’s a lesbian, a lesbian, a lesbian!”
9 THE VERDICT (1982) Newman aged more gracefully than practically any other star of his generation. He was pushing 60 when he received his first Best Actor nomination in 15 years for playing Frank Galvin, an alcoholic lawyer who grasps at redemption in a malpractice suit against a Catholic hospital.
Best scene: His finest moment comes in the jury summation, written by David Mamet: “In my religion, they say, ‘Act as if ye had faith . . . and faith will be given to you.’ If we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves. And act with justice. See, I believe there is justice in our hearts.”
10 NOBODY’S FOOL (1994) Newman scored his last Best Actor nod (he was nominated again, in support, as a mob boss in “The Road to Perdition,” his final on-screen appearance in a feature) as another drinker, a small town ne’er-do-well Sully, who has a reunion with his now-grown son and grandson.
Best scene: This is one of Newman’s all time-best performances in a career full of great ones. He’s especially charming in scenes with his landlady, played by Jessica Tandy. But the best may be a quiet sequence where he puts his grandson on his lap and takes him for a ride in his old red pickup truck.
PAYING TRIBUTE TO PAUL NEWMAN’S 10 BEST PERFORMANCES!!