26 January 1925 - 26 September 2008
He has been nominated six times for best-actor Oscars (Cat on a Hot Tine Roof 1958; The Hustler, 1961; Hud, 1963; Cool Hand Luke, 1967; Absence of Malice, 1981; and The Verdict, 1982), and he won the actor-of-the-year award at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival for The Long Hot Summer, with Joanne Woodward. This down-to-earth, Budweiser-drinking (counteracted by daily workouts), regular-guy superstar has made a career of turning in memorable performances. Delighting his audiences time after time in films including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Sting, (1973), and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), Paul Newman was finally recognized with an Academy Award for his portrayal of The Hustler's Fast Eddie Felson, now middle-aged, in The Color of Money (1986).
He has directed several outstanding films as well, for instance Rachel, Rachel (1968, starring wife Joanne Woodward), which was nominated as one of the year's best pictures. Both Newman and Woodward work only when a script moves them. Their personal integrity and dedication are well known; Newman was commended for them, and for his contributions to his field, in 1985, with an honorary Academy Award. Also well known are their political awareness and commitment to causes such as civil rights and environmental protection. Newman's only son, Scott (by his first marriage, to Jackie Witte), died in 1978 of a drug and alcohol overdose, after which he established the Scott Newman Foundation, an organization that works to promote awareness in schools of the realities of drug abuse. Widely known as well is the fact that all profits from the sales of his salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, popcorn, cookbooks, and other products go to charities and to social-welfare programs such as the Scott Newman Foundation.
His blue eyes have been written about so much that he probably wishes they could be copyrighted. Perhaps less widely known is that Paul Leonard Newman enlisted in the U.S. Navy on 22 January 1943, after his graduation from Shaker Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio. The second son of a thriving sporting-goods storekeeper (Arthur, his brother, eventually became a film production manager), Paul (born 1925) had acted in a few school productions but had never considered making a profession of show business. He attended Ohio University in Athens while he waited to hear from the Navy, and during his months there he had time to perform in another school production, The Milky Way, in which he played a boxer.
Newman was sent to the Navy V-12 program at Yale, with hopes of being accepted for pilot training. But this plan was foiled when a flight physical revealed him to be color-blind. So he was sent instead to boot camp and then on to further training as a radioman and gunner.
Qualifying as a rear-seat radioman and gunner in torpedo bombers, in 1944 Aviation Radioman Third Class Newman was sent to Barber's Point, Hawaii, and subsequently assigned to Pacific-based replacement torpedo squadrons (VT-98, VT-99, and VT-100). These torpedo squadrons were responsible primarily for training replacement pilots and combat aircrewmen, placing particular importance on carrier landings.
During his two years in the Pacific the Newman luck held, especially on one occasion when his pilot fell ill and their aircraft was grounded. The rest of the squadron was transferred to an aircraft carrier operating off the coast of Japan, where a kamikaze hit the carrier, inflicting heavy casualties on the men and aircraft of Newman's squadron.
While he was with VT-99, training personnel in TBM-1Cs, TBM-3s, and TBF-1cs, the squadron moved to Eniwetok, then to Guam, and in January 1945 on to Saipan. This remained its base of operations until its decommissioning nine months later. A VT-99 contingent including Newman was aboard the aircraft carrier Hollandia (CVE-97), which was operating about five hundred miles off Japan when the Enola Gay dropped its atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Finally, Paul Newman served with Carrier Aircraft Service Unit 7, one of many shore-based carrier air-group support units. CASUs operated the facilities, serviced and rearmed, made repairs, and handled routine upkeep and administrative duties. Newman's CASU was based in Seattle, conveniently located for his discharge at Bremerton, Washington State, on 21 January 1946. He was decorated with the American Area Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Courtesy of the GI Bill, his next undertaking was to pursue his education at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. His studies did not interest him, though, as much as his other activities, including football, acting in school productions, and general all-American-boy hell-raising. He managed to receive his B.A. nevertheless, in 1949, after which he took off almost immediately for Wisconsin, where he was scheduled to perform in summer stock. Next it was on to Woodstock, Illinois, where he appeared in numerous plays until 1950, when his father passed away and he was asked to come home and run the family business.
This was definitely not the second son's dream, and he was grateful to be released from it a year later, when the store was sold. He promptly enrolled in the Yale drama school, New Haven, Connecticut, and one year later, backed by his teachers, he took on New York City. There he began working in television without further ado. So Paul Newman was also appearing on the stage, and during the early 1950s he worked on improving his skills through studies at the Actors' Studio.
By the late 1950s a long-term contract with Warner Brothers had taken him to Hollywood, and he was firmly ensconced in the world of moviemaking, where he has been ever since--that is, when he has not been racing cars or making spaghetti sauce or working for his causes or taking his wife out to dinner on golf courses by the sea. Paul and Joanne have been together since 1958, and they had made their home in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in Connecticut, maintaining also an apartment in New York City and a house in Malibu. Paul Newman has five daughters.
Source: Wise, James E., Jr., and Anne Collier Rehill, Stars in Blue: Movie Actors in America's Sea Services (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997): 207-211.
Acknowledgment: The Navy Department Library gratefully acknowledges the Naval Institute Press for giving permission to post this chapter on the Naval Historical Center website. All rights are reserved by the authors and publisher.