PAUL NEWMAN by Elena Oumano


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In the celebio sweeps, Oumano's Paul Newman follows Paul and Joanne (1988) by Joe Morella and Edward Z. Epstein, who brought warmth and a light touch to their portrait of a pair of very serious actors. But since both bios are mostly scissors-and-paste mock-ups, we now find ourselves tripping through the same quotes still again, quotes not fresh even with Morella and Epstein, and through role analyses that can be just so deep, given their number. Oumano opens with a lengthy thought-piece on Newman's character and his acting career, a summation digging but styleless. As a youthful postwar serviceman, Newman drifted out of his father's sports-goods merchandising and from college theatricals into summer stock: "Acting was a happy alternative to a way of life that meant nothing to me." He fell in love with Joanne Woodward while still married to his first wife, Jackie; was guilt-ridden when he walked out on Jackie and their three kids. . .and also deepened his in-and-out flirtation with alcoholism. Crawling out from under the shadow of Brando, Newman became a first-class dramatic actor who nonetheless was never a natural like his wife but a very studious artist who built his characters from the outside in. Looking back on his earlier roles, Newman is "aware of how hard I was working." Hard work and perseverance are as much part of his being as his belligerence toward the press. Meanwhile, at 62, he was voted by 46 percent of the women polled by Europa magazine "as the man they most fantasized about having sex with." With his second career as a very fine race-car driver and with his philanthropic food merchandising, he achieves a kind of living grandeur that breathes with myth. A cheer to Oumano for stretching herself beyond her boneless Sam Shepherd bio (1986) and taking a deeper whack at biography with Newman, whose rounded life offers longer thoughts. It's less easy to cheer a book that emerges from a paste-pot, not from a love of language.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1989
ISBN: 312-02627-7
Publisher: St. Martin's
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