Paul Newman dead at 83

Sep 27, 2008 at 1:52 p.m. ET

Celebrated actor Paul Newman, an Oscar-winning superstar whose work as an activist, race car driver and philanthropist merely increased his legend, died Friday, September 26, 2008, after a long battle with cancer. He was 83.

Hollywood legend Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke

Newman passed at his Westport, Connecticut farmhouse surrounded by family and close friends, said publicist Jeff Sanderson. Earlier reports stated that the longtime chain smoker suffered from lung cancer.

Genesis of legend

After studying at the Yale School of Drama, Newman went on to New York City where he studied at the famed Actor's Studio with classmates such as Marlon Brando, James Dean and Karl Malden. He got his big break due to tragedy, replacing Dean after the rebel's fatal car accident in a television adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's The Battler.

Newman went on to have one of the most successful and varied careers Hollywood has ever seen, playing everything from an embittered, alcoholic former high school athlete in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opposite Elizabeth Taylor to a pool shark in The Hustler, reprising the role with Tom Cruise in The Color of Money. Newman earned ten Oscar nominations for his prodigious work, winning one regular award and two honorary ones.

A man of giving

One of those Oscars was the Jean Hersholt Humantiarian Award, given for his charitable work. The Newman's Own foods brand, started as a joke with a neighbor, grew into a multi-million dollar business that donated every penny of its profits to charity - more than $175 million by 2007. Newman also founded camps for children with cancer all over the United States and Europe, and established the Scott Newman Foundation to finance the production of anti-drug films for children after the death of his son of an alcohol and Valium overdose.

Newman had a well-known love of auto racing, but it was no mere hobby. He started studying the sport while filming "Winning" in 1972 and turned pro in 1977. His teams were highly respected in racing circles, earning fifth place in Daytona and second in Le Mans. "Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood," he told Peoplemagazine in 1979.

Butch and Sundance reunite

Hollywood love story

His marriage to actress Joanne Woodward was a rare long-term Hollywood feat. The couple wed in 1958 after appearing together in The Long, Hot Summer and had three daughters together. When asked by Playboyif he was ever tempted to stray, Newman replied, "I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?"

Passing his 80th birthday Newman remained in high demand both as an actor and as a director, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama Empire Falls and providing the voice of the old 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar animated hit Cars. But in May 2007 he told "Good Morning America" that he would be hanging up his acting hat. "I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to," he said. "You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me."

A month before his 70th birthday, Newman told Newsweekhe had not mellowed with age. "I'm not mellower, I'm not less angry, I'm not less self-critical, I'm not less tenacious," he said. "Maybe the best part is that your liver can't handle those beers at noon anymore."

He is survived by his wife, five daughters (two from a previous marriage), two grandsons and his older brother Arthur.

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