Oscar-winning actor and noted philanthropist Paul Newman died Friday at his home in Westport, Connecticut, of cancer, a spokesperson told CNN. The actor was renowned not only for his work in such films as “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Exodus,” “The Hustler,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Sting” and “The Verdict,” but also for his many years of charity work.
Born January 26, 1925, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Newman’s acting career began auspiciously, with a small role in the Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway play “Picnic.” But it wasn’t until he moved to Hollywood in the mid-1950s that he really began rocketing to fame, with roles in films like “The Silver Chalice,” “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” and, especially, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958) where he played Brick Pollitt, the ambiguously homosexual son of a southern patriarch. For his performance in the film, Newman would receive the first of what would become 10 Academy Award nominations.
Many famous film roles would follow throughout the next decade, most notably in classics like “Hud,” “Sweet Bird of Youth,” “Cool Hand Luke,” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the latter of which co-starred Robert Redford. The pair would re-team once again five years later for “The Sting,” a ragtime ode to two con men that would go on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The two films were among the highest-grossing of the era.
Newman himself would finally get his long overdue Oscar in 1986, as Best Actor for his portrayal of “Fast” Eddie Felson in “The Color of Money” (1986). Co-starring Tom Cruise, the Martin Scorcese-directed flick was a direct sequel to possibly Newman’s best early film, “The Hustler,” picking up 20 years later in the life of cinema’s most famous pool shark.
Newman would go on to earn two more Oscar nominations for continued, if sporadic, work over the next two decades, one for “Nobody’s Fool” in 1994 and his last for “Road to Perdition” in 2002, the veteran actor’s last actual appearance on the big-screen. Newman’s final role, however, was as the voice of Doc Hudson in the animated “Cars.” It is unknown at press time how his death affects the role in “Cars 2.”
Other notable acting roles included performances in films like “Absence of Malice,” “Slap Shot,” “The Verdict,” and “The Towering Inferno.”
While Newman gained worldwide acclaim for his acting, he would become equally well known in later years for his philanthropy, most notably through Newman’s Own, a food company that produced salad dressing, popcorn, lemonade, and cookies, among other products. Newman donated all of the company’s after taxes profits to charity, which, at the time of his death, amounted to more than $200 million over 15 years.
Newman was particularly avid in his support of Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, which he founded with author A.E. Hotchner in 1988. In associated with other camps in the United States and abroad, it provides camping experiences free-of-charge for children suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses and helps to support their families.
For his contributions to charity, Newman won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 1994 Oscars.
Newman is survived by his wife of 50 years, actress Joanne Woodward, and five children.