I met him about two years ago. He and Joanne Woodward came into the store on a Friday night. They were very nice. When they went to the register our cashier noticed his card wasn’t signed (good job, Milo!), then asked him for ID because she didn’t know who he was (you’re embarrassing me, Milo!), which was made worse two minutes later after they had left and another cashier, said “You know, from the salad dressing!” (I’m gonna kill you, Rebecca).
I reduce so much in life to a point system. My point system on actors is based on how good a performance is, weighted slightly higher for a lead. Among male actors, he is fourth all-time, behind Nicholson, De Niro and Hoffman. He is so high, both for his amazing ability and for his longevity. I had him as the third best actor of the sixties (behind Richard Burton and Sidney Poitier), but also the fifth best actor of the eighties (behind Nicholson, William Hurt, Daniel Day-Lewis and Michael Caine).
He made 55 films. I have seen 34 of them. He was always good. Usually brilliant. The best follows.
1958 – nominated for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (my rank – #2)
The only one of the five nominees who deserved a nomination, his great performance comes up against Orson Welles in Touch of Evil. But of the actual nominees, he definitely should have won.
1961 – nominated for The Hustler (my rank – #2)
Another brilliant performance, but I actually agree with Maximillian Schell’s Oscar for the brilliant lawyer defending the Nazis in Judgment at Nuremberg. But by this point, it was clear that he was a force to be reckoned with.
1962 – not nominated for Sweet Bird of Youth (my rank – #5)
O’Toole should have won (Lawrence) and Peck (Mockingbird) deserved his nomination, but not the win, but it should have been Robert Preston (Music Man), Ralph Richardson (Long Day’s Journey) and Newman in with the other three slots.
1963 – nominated for Hud (my winner)
Poitier won, but Newman should have. He was already proving how good a rake he could be.
1967 – nominated for Cool Hand Luke (my rank – #5)
Nothing against his performance. I still think he was better than Steiger, who won. But this is the year for Orson Welles again (Chimes at Midnight), Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde), Hoffman (Graduate), and the better Poitier performance (In the Heat of the Night).
1969 – not nominated for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (my rank – #5)
John Wayne’s Oscar is a joke, whereas Newman proved he could still be cool and funny and as the above clip shows, has one of the great all-time film scenes.
1981 – nominated for Absence of Malice (my rank – #4)
He mainly made lighter, stranger movies in the seventies. In 81, he came back with a vengeance, just in the same year as Beatty (Reds), Harrison Ford (Raiders) and Burt Lancaster (Atlantic City).
1982 – nominated for The Verdict (my winner)
The truly great “I’m back” performance (even though the line comes at the end of his actual Oscar winning role). Better than Kingsley in Gandhi or Hoffman in Tootsie.
1986 – won for The Color of Money (my rank – #3)
Most everyone else gave their award to Bob Hoskins for Mona Lisa and he should have won, but they had passed up Newman too many times and so the Academy caved. It also could have gone to William Hurt for Children of a Lesser God, but he had won the year before.
1994 – nominated for Nobody’s Fool (my rank – #4)
Yet, the best of the nominees again, because they didn’t actually nominate Johnny Depp for Ed Wood, Ralph Fiennes for Quiz Show or Tim Robbins for Shawshank. And he was so wonderful in Nobody’s Fool. Kind of a warm-up for Empire Falls.
2002 – nominated for Supporting Actor for Road to Perdition (my rank – #5)
I agree with Chris Cooper’s Oscar and the nomination for Christopher Walken. Stephen Dillane should have been nominated as Leonard Woolf in The Hours and Jude Law was the better role in Perdition, but Newman still slips in as my number 5.
So there you have it. He was nominated for 9 Oscars and won once. I’ve seen 97% of all acting Oscar nominations and I would have nominated him for 11 and given him 2 Oscars. Plus, he deserved an Emmy for Empire Falls, his last great performance, opposite his wife, of course.
His sheer talent was as immense as anyone outside of Olivier or Welles. He was the natural successor to Brando and Dean and he stayed brilliant for 50 years. And he was on Nixon’s Enemies List. It doesn’t get any better than that.