September 28, 2008

Paul Newman, RIP

Rather than mention all the great performances Paul Newman gave, I'd like to recall a role he chose to give up.

One of my favorite movies is John Huston's version of Kipling's short story "The Man Who Would Be King." It was in Development Hell for 20 years, going through multiple screenplays. Originally, Huston was going to direct Clark Gable as the majestic Daniel Dravot and Humphrey Bogart as the sly Peachy Carnehan. I'm not sure if the stars were going to attempt English accents, or if they were going to be turned into Canadians in the Indian Army, or what.

Then Bogie died. After his comeback in the "Misfits," Gable wanted to revive the project, so Huston was looking for a new co-star, when Gable had a heart attack and died. In the 1970s, the project got relaunched, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford attached. (I'm guessing with Redford as Danny and Newman as Peachy, but Newman being older and almost as handsome as Redford would have made casting more flexible and/or confusing than with Gable and Bogart, where there was never a doubt who would play which role.) John Huston and his secretary, Gladys Hill, wrote a great fourth script.

From director John Huston's autobiography "An Open Book:"

"I sent the new screenplay to Paul, who called me immediately and said it was one of the best things he'd read, but he'd had second thoughts about the casting of the leads, which at that point were to have been himself and Robert Redford. He said they should be played by two Englishmen. Paul, speaking not as an actor but as someone interested in the improvement of the breed, cast it right there: "For Christ's sake, John, get Connery and Caine!"

Screenwriter William Goldman's book Adventures in the Screen Trade includes a fair amount of malicious gossip about the swelled heads of big stars he'd written for, such as Redford and Dustin Hoffman, but he only had praise for Newman as a human being.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

14 comments:

halfbreed said...

Great story, and good for Newman. No one could have been more majestic as Dravot than Connery. BTW, if you liked The Man Who Would Be King, check out The Wind and the Lion. Another underrated movie which was never a big hit (because it glorified an Arab?). Also Robin and Marian, a great love story also featuring the still beautiful and always very feminine Audrey Hepburn. Connery's three greatest movies. (The Bond movies, as great as Connery was in them, seem a little silly now.)

PS -- Newman ws better-looking than Redford.

Anonymous said...

Steve,
here is the second paragraph of the Kipling story. I have always loved that 'very awful indeed' which is possibly a good description of our immediate economic future!

'The beginning of everything was in a railway-train upon the road to Mhow from Ajmir. There had been a Deficit in the Budget, which necessitated travelling, not Second-class, which is only half as dear as First-Class, but by Intermediate, which is very awful indeed. There are no cushions in the Intermediate class, and the population are either Intermediate, which is Eurasian, or native, which for a long night journey is nasty, or Loafer, which is amusing though intoxicated. Intermediates do not buy from refreshment-rooms. They carry their food in bundles and pots, and buy sweets from the native sweetmeat-sellers, and drink the roadside water. This is why in hot weather Intermediates are taken out of the carriages dead, and in all weathers are most properly looked down upon.'

Richard London

Anonymous said...

Someone should mention Connery is Scottish.

Martin said...

Newman starred in one of the best spy movies I've ever seen - The MacKintosh Man. And he was a real hoot in "Slapshot" and "Blaze".

Anonymous said...

Mr. Newman dumped his wife and three children to take up with his second wife (peachy guy!).His son from his first marriage ended up dead from a drug overdose. Newman assuaged his guilt with his various charities (as always with the liberal, charity begins as far from home as possible). So we will leave him with the epitaph once applied to Richard Strauss by Toscanini: "As an artist, I take my hat off to you but as a man, I put it back on ten times!"

daveg said...

He kind of killed the salad dressing market, selling fructose loaded syrup style dressing.

But other than that he seems like he was a good man.

Anonymous said...

When reading about Newman this weekend, nearly all the obits marveled that he was a devoted & faithful husband to the wonderful Joanne Woodward, which brought to mind what you wrote in your review of Cinderella Man about J. Braddock:

"We admire the high-testosterone man who could play the cad but instead chooses to be the dad more than the low testosterone fellow without that option."

Anonymous said...

This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Don't forget that Christopher Plummer played Rudyard Kipling (I just saw him a few weeks ago in "Caesar and Cleopatra" at Stratford, Ontario - he's still going strong! Here's one of my favorite quotes from the movie:

Billy Fish: He wants to know if you are gods.
Peachy Carnehan: Not gods - Englishmen. The next best thing.

This film should be required viewing for neocons and their fellow-travelers. The harry Flashman books wouldn't hurt, either.

master_of_americans said...

"[Sean] Connery" and "Englishman" shouldn't be in the same sentence together. Quibbling aside, neat anecdote.

Zylonet said...

Paul Newman was a heck of a good racing driver. I had the privelege to accompany him as passenger around the track in a high performance car. I give two thumbs up!

Anonymous said...

FWIW, Newman was half Jewish.

Anonymous said...

A BBC obit I saw seem to imply he was unusual for a Hollywood star in his support for liberal causes.

One wonders where they get their information.

Steve Sailer said...

Newman was unusual for a Hollywood star in that he used his fame to not only endorse products, but to build a going concern that was so successful it could give away $175 million of its profits to charities. That's not just unusual, that's pretty close to unique.

josh said...

I dont think we should knock Newman for divorcing his 1st wife. He married young and then he fell in love with Woodward. He could have been one of the top "rakes' in H'wood,had he so chosen. He stayed with her thru the rest of his life. As for his scn,its a cliche to say Newman was some sort of 'Bad Dad" but how do we know? And if he was(was his 1st wife Jewish? Maybe there were ethnic issues,resentment for dropping his mother for a shiksa,all speculation)and he worked hard to "redeem" himself,well,what could he do,bring the son back?? I am sure he would if he could. Addiction is very much a genetic thing,as Steve probably knows! :) Anyway,his best work was definitely in the 60's,when he played really interesting characters,like Eddie Felson,the 'firebug" from Long Hot Summer,and Hombre---great stuff for a growing kid to see! Towering Inferno was great,too! His later stuff--for which he seemd to get sooo much praise,was less interesting to me at least,as he had crossed the line into Beloved Star. Never saw Butch Cassidy. I avoide movies in the 80's,so I never saw The Verdict(too much Sally Field and Glenn Close--UGH!!). All in all I preferred McQueen,but Newman was pretty good,too!