Remembering Paul Newman through books


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Paul Newman, who died today at the age of 83, appeared in his first film in 1952. During his career, he won one Oscar, was nominated for nine more, and appeared in classics including ‘Hud’ (pictured), ‘Cool Hand Luke,’ ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,’ ‘The Hustler,’ ‘The Sting’ and ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’

His roguish on-screen persona was belied by his personal life: in 1958, he married actress Joanne Woodward, and they never split. (OK, it was his second marriage, and he still liked racecar driving). Eventually they moved to Connecticut and had kids and cooked.


That’s when Paul Newman, movie star, became Paul Newman, chef-philanthropist. Proceeds from his Newman’s Own brand -- of salad dressings, spaghetti sauces and more -- was designated to go to charity. You can read how a lark became serious business in ‘Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good: The Madcap Business Adventure by the Truly Oddest Couple,’ written in alternating chapters by Paul Newman and foodstuff partner A.E. Hotchner. The original 2003 edition can be found used; the 2008 reprint edition, retitled ‘Pursuit of the Common Good: Twenty-five Years of Improving the World, One Bottle of Salad Dressing at a Time,’ came out this summer.

There are also multiple editions of the ‘Newman’s Own Cookbook,’ (1986, 1998) co-authored by Newman and a handful of others, including daughter Nell -- who has her own book, ‘Newman’s Own Organics Guide to a Good Life.’

Trying to get close to Paul Newman through biography may be tough. The 1973 ‘Films of Paul Newman’ looks like a fan’s dream, with its share of handsome publicity stills. Dan O’Brien’s 2004 book ‘Paul Newman: A Life in Pictures’ has more than 60 photos but pulls its biographical data from previously published sources. Publisher’s Weekly wrote of Eric Lax’s 1996 book ‘Paul Newman: A Biography’ that ‘The account of Newman the man is superficial, however, though perhaps necessarily so, since the star is notoriously one of the most private men in show business.’

Maybe there’s an autobiography waiting to be published -- I hope so. Until then, we’ll be left eating Newman’s Own popcorn and watching his films -- be sure to include ‘Empire Falls,’ based on Richard Russo’s novel.

-- Carolyn Kellogg