Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Hair on the Air Remembers Paul Newman
My favorite all time movie with Paul Newman is Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams. Like most Tennessee stories the repressed, latent homosexual theme is in there. I find it extremely courageous of Paul to play the character of "Brick" in 1958. The 50's was not a great time to play gay. Newman, at his most handsome, made men and women swoon with his boozy anger, and drop dead sex appeal.
At the censors' insistence, Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize–winning drama — about an impotent, closeted gay ex-college football star with the ironic name of Brick and his simmering, frustrated wife Maggie ( Liz Taylor in a slip) — was denuted of its homoerotic melancholy and given a hopeful ending. Maybe we can go straight! The movie wasn't cut completely, instead, it was turned into the story of a married couple locked in frustration (hers) and if one reads between the lines his hatred and shame of his sexuality.He spit out his dialogue as if he'd just realized someone had laced his whiskey bottle with pee . "How in hell on earth can you imagine you're gonna have a child with a man who cannot stand you?" Brick asks Maggie, who acknowledges that their marriage has disintegrated into a non sexual formality — "I'm not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that's all" — but she still loves the guy. She has to-we all do; he's Paul Newman. And he will finally satisfy her; she's Liz Taylor. That was the battle that '50s Hollywood waged with its own teetering struggle with gay themes.
I really went nuts with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I was Sundance as a boy. This was WAY before Brokeback Mountain, but I could sense there was a "brotherhood" between those characters, and I didn't have to think to far past the famous scene where Katherine Ross, Butch and Sundance are all in the same bed together. That movie came out in 1969- quite a year: The Charles Mansion murders, Woodstock. and Neil Armstrong taking the first step on the moon. Two years before, Cool Hand Luke was released. Paul plays the rebellious prison rebel who eats 50 hard boiled eggs on a dare. I have loved prison movies and hard boiled eggs ever since.
I was lucky and honnered enough to see Paul Newman up close a few times since I went away to school with his daughter Steffy. She was TO cool, with her chopsticks tucked into her Fry boots all the time. He was a devoted father, and the whole family came together when Scott-his only son died of as drug overdose my senior year at school. Joanne Woodward is out at Canyon Ranch Spa in the Berkshires on many weekends, as it is rumored that she is a silent partner of the successful Spa.I love that they were married for 50 years to each other. They really ducked out of the Hollywood scene and lived in Westport CT. There is no question that they were completely crazy for each other. My favorite quote of Paul Newman's was when he was asked in a Playboy Magazine interview what kept him from straying on his wife Joanne? His answer: "Why go out for hamburger when you can eat steak at home?"
Hair on the Air salutes the life, the look, and the philanthropy of the late great Paul Newman.