Saturday, September 27, 2008

"You're an original, that's what you are!"

The quote which is the title of this post was how George Kennedy's character, Dragline, in Cool Hand Luke described the film's namesake, Luke Jackson, portrayed magnificently by Paul Newman, who, sadly, passed away today at the age of 83.

Like millions of people around the world, I have been a longtime fan of Paul Newman's. He is a true American legend, not just for his obvious acting ability, but for his dedication to the real work necessary to making this world a better place through his many philanthropic works, the best-known of which was the The Newman's Own Foundation, which has donated over a quarter of a billion dollars to progressive causes since 1982.

Cool Hand Luke, which Mr. Newman made in 1967, is probably my most favorite of his films. If you haven't seen it, you should! It is the story of what happens when the proverbial irresistible force meets the immovable object. Cool Hand Luke is an unflinching look at one man's refusal to conform and a rural prison camp staff's determination to break an unbreakable spirit. To me, the film didn't glorify law-breaking or criminal life, because it was brutal in it's depiction of the merciless life of a chain gang. This film, for me, was about how even the lowest of station can have a dream (if not a hope) for a life that's better than their present circumstances dictate. While the real-life actor Paul Newman and his fictional alter-ego, Luke, did share a seemingly indomitable spirit, in at least one very important way, Newman was the anti-Luke: Mr. Newman led the full, honorable, life that Luke may have desired deep inside (like the rest of us), but of which he seemed incapable of understanding or achieving. If Paul Newman had done no other films in his life, in my opinion, his role as Luke would have cemented his place eternally in Hollywood royalty.

Another one-liner from the fictional Dragline comes to mind about the fictional Luke that could just as easily describe the amazing real man who played the part, especially considering Mr. Newman's dedication to giving back to a world that had given him so if his gifted acting ability wasn't enough: Paul Newman was, "a natural born world-shaker."

As a true fan, I thank you, Mr. Newman, for shaking things up for so long.

“I'm a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant.”

Paul Newman, 1925 -2008

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