Yesterday the great Paul Newman would have been 85 years old, and I feel pretty confident saying that when it comes to an actor with the perfect balance of talent, humility and jaw-dropping good looks, there isn't an actor working today who can touch him. Newman's career spanned decades and he could play erotically-charged Alpha-males like Ben Quick or broken men like Frank Galvin with ease. He was a man's man who had a heart and a conscience and he brought that into every role he played, and when we lost him in 2008, I think we all knew that we'd never see anyone quite like him again.
Newman struggled against his good looks for most of his career and like the man of pure class that he was, he could even joke about it, famously saying: "I picture my epitaph: `Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown." Luckily, Newman was a talented actor and you can watch his films and witness one of Hollywood's greatest talents, or you can also watch those movies and let your mind wander to some less high-minded pursuits.
The one thing you can count on in this world is the power of a pretty face (whether it's a man or a woman), and Newman spent his career walking the tight-rope between being the handsome leading man and the serious actor. So, in honor of that tightrope, I've made a list of five films that are not only great performances, but are also your chance to develop a brand new movie crush. Because if you weren't already a little bit in love with Paul Newman, after watching these movies, you will be.
After the jump; five Paul Newman performances to make you swoon...
Martin Ritt's drama about a generational collide in the new west was a critical hit, and a big part of that success was Newman's portrayal as the callous and grasping Hud Bannon. In a brilliant combination of role and actor, Newman took his natural easy charm and turned it on it's head into something borderline sinister.
2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The drama snob in me knows that the Hollywood adaptation of Tennessee Williams' classic played fast and loose with some of the themes to keep censors happy (although, even Williams' himself was ambiguous about Brick's orientation), the classic film lover in me counts this film as one of the finest Williams' adaptations to come out of Hollywood. Elizabeth Taylor (as Maggie the Cat) and Newman are two of the prettiest people you'll ever see, but their relationship on screen is anything but and it's a thrill to watch.
3. Cool Hand Luke
It's funny that a film that usually gets claimed as a "guy thing" is like catnip to the ladies. If there is one thing that us gals love, it's a sensitive bad boy, and Luke is the thinking girl's version. Even in convict blues, Newman laid on those touches of sensitivity and made Luke the object of affection for just about anybody with a pulse. Plus, let's get real, have you seen the man without a shirt on?
4. The Long Hot Summer
If this was a list of Newman's best films, then this particular flick probably wouldn't make the cut, but since I'm letting my inner fan-girl inform my choices, Ben Quick jumps right into the top five. The 1958 southern romance was based on the stories of William Faulkner and centers on a drifter and a pent up school teacher in the hot and sweaty south, and was the first time that Newman appeared with the one and only Joanne Woodward on screen.
5. The Hustler
What made Newman such a great actor was that he had the ability to play people who weren't necessarily the nicest guys in the room, but damn if they weren't the most interesting. Robert Rossen's film about a pool hustler faced with the choice of being a winner or being a person was one of Newman's most iconic roles, and when it comes to being an antihero, Newman's Fast Eddie Felson truly is one of the sexiest I've ever seen.