Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Saturday, 27 September 2008 15:13 UK

Obituary: Paul Newman

Paul Newman
One of Hollywood's most popular leading men

Screen legend Paul Newman has died from cancer, aged 83.

With his piercing blue eyes and laid back style, Paul Newman became one of the most recognised leading men in Hollywood.

But he always doubted his own acting ability, once claiming that "I only got by on looks and energy."

Paul Leonard Newman was born on 26 Jan 1925 in the Shaker Heights suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.

His father, Arthur, who ran a successful sports goods store, was Jewish while his mother Theresa came from a Slovakian Catholic family.

It was Theresa who encouraged his early interest in things theatrical and he made his stage debut at the age of seven, in a school production of Robin Hood.

After graduating from high school he began an economics degree at Ohio University but the war cut short his studies.

He joined the US Navy, hoping to become a pilot but failed the physical examination when it was discovered he was colour blind.

Instead he trained as a radio operator and rear gunner, spending most of his military service flying in torpedo bombers over the Pacific.

Paul Newman wedding
He had one of the most enduring marriages in showbusiness
After the war, he enrolled at Kenyon college, where he studied English, theatre and economics - and started a popular laundry service to earn extra money.

He went on to study acting, first at Yale and then at the Actors' Studio in New York, where his contemporaries included Marlon Brando and James Dean.

He made his Broadway debut in 1953 in a production of William Inge's play Picnic which ran for nearly 500 performances.

His film debut, a year later, came in The Silver Chalice, a biblical epic,which Newman allegedly described as "the worst motion picture of the 1950s".

When the film was shown on US TV a decade later, he took out an advertisement in Variety, apologising for his performance, thereby ensuring huge ratings for the broadcast.

By the late 1950s Newman had become a top box office draw smouldering alongside Elizabeth Taylor in the 1958 film, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

In 1961 he won widespread acclaim, and a BAFTA, as "Fast Eddie" Felson in The Hustler, a role he would reprise in the Color of Money 25 years later.

The films came thick and fast throughout the 1960s including Hud, Hombre and a part as the eponymous rebellious prisoner in Cool Hand Luke.

Newman as Cool Hand Luke
Man against the system in Cool Hand Luke
In 1969 he teamed up with Robert Redford for the western, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, which became one of the biggest grossing films of all time.

He worked with Redford again in 1973 in The Sting, in which a complicated plot was hatched by a pair of hustlers to con a big time gangster, played by Robert Shaw.

He continued to widen his repertoire playing a diverse selection of roles throughout the 1970s and 80s.

They varied from the architect in The Towering Inferno, a hard drinking hockey coach in Slap Shot and the taciturn cop Murphy in Fort Apache, The Bronx.

On the track

After six Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, Newman finally got hold of an Oscar for the 1986 film Color of Money where he appeared alongside Tom Cruise.

Much to the chagrin of his appreciative, mostly female, audiences, Newman often liked to work behind the camera.

He produced and directed his wife, Joanne Woodward, in several of his own films, including the Oscar-nominated Rachel, Rachel.

In his later years, Newman turned down many film offers preferring to concentrate on his sports team and business interests.

Newman in The Sting
Audiences loved the twists and turns in The Sting
His passion for motor racing had been kindled following his appearance in the 1969 film, Winning.

His first professional race came in 1972 and he continued to compete throughout the next 20 years including a second place in the 1979 Le Mans 24 hour race.

In 1982, he took co-ownership of the Newman-Haas team, which attracted racing stars Mario Andretti and Nigel Mansell.

At the age of 70 he became the oldest driver to compete in a major event when he took part in the 24 hour race at Daytona Beach, Florida.

In 1982, appreciative dinner guests persuaded the actor to bottle his own brand of salad dressing for mass-production.

By 2006, his Newman's Own range of pasta sauces, lemonade and popcorn, had raised more than $200 million for good causes.

These included a residential summer camp for sick children and the Scott Newman drug rehabilitation centre, in memory of the son from his first marriage who died in 1978 after an accidental drug overdose.

Nevertheless, Newman continued to make occasional returns to the big screen, co-starring with his wife in the 1990 film Mr and Mrs Bridgend later appearing in Twilight, Nobody's Fool and Message in a Bottle.

Paul Newman
His big off screen love was motor racing
He was again tempted back in front of the camera in 2001 by Sam Mendes to win rave notices for his part in The Road to Perdition.

In 2007 he announced officially that he was retiring from acting, believing that he was no longer able to perform at the level he wanted.

"You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention. So I think that's pretty much a closed book for me."

Following the end of his first marriage to Jackie Witte, he married the actress Joanne Woodward in 1958.

It was one of the most enduring relationships in Hollywood and the couple jealously guarded their privacy.

Once asked if he was ever attracted by the beautiful women with whom he worked Newman famously replied, "Why go out for a hamburger when you can have steak at home".

He credited a regular beer intake for his good fortune, and a sign on his office door summed up his approach, "If we ever have a plan, we're screwed."

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