A Star On Screen and Off: The Early Years of Paul Newman

Over his fifty plus year career, Paul Newman has won Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and Cannes Awards for his work both as an actor and film director. But, don’t think that’s enough to tire this legend out. At 82 years old, Newman now spends his time devoted to Newman’s Own, the company he first founded as a practical joke, which has today becoming a shining example of corporate philanthropy. It has given away over $200 million since its inception, making Newman a star both on screen and off.

Born on January 26, 1925 in Shaker Heights, Cleveland, Paul Leonard Newman grew up in a well-to-do Jewish-Catholic family. His father, Arthur, owned a successful sporting goods store, where his mother, Theresa, also helped out when she wasn’t busy taking care of Paul and his brother, Arthur. The young Newman was a natural athlete, but his mother encouraged him to take up theatre. At the age of seven, he made his acting debut in his school’s version of Robin Hood.

In 1943, Newman graduated form Shaker Heights High School. He enrolled in Ohio University, but was soon expelled for crashing a beer keg into the university president’s car. He took on a job as a door-to-door salesman selling encyclopedias. When WWII broke out, Newman was eager to serve as a pilot and tried to enlist in the Naval Air Corps. When tests revealed that the man whose blue eyes would soon be famous the world over was in fact colour blind, Newman was crushed. Instead, he had to settle to be a radio operator on torpedo bombers in the South Pacific.

When he returned to the U.S., Newman won a football scholarship at Kenyon College in Ohio, where he played until trouble found him again. After getting into a fight at a local bar and spending the night in jail, Newman was thrown off the football team. He turned to drama to occupy his time and began appearing in many college productions. “Since I was determined not to study very much, I majored in theatre the last two years,” recalls Newman.

In 1949, Newman graduated with a B.A. in English and moved to Chicago to work with the famous Woodstock Players. When his father died the next year and left him the family store, Newman was faced with a difficult decision: should he carry on his father’s legacy and live a secure life as the owner of a sporting goods store, or continue pursuing his dream of acting? He sold his share of his father’s business to his brother and moved with his wife and new son to Connecticut, where he enrolled in the graduate drama program at Yale University.

When two more children were added to his family, Newman knew he needed to make a success of his acting career – and fast. He traveled frequently to New York, where he won various television roles. Finally, in 1952, Newman moved with his family to New York to study at the renowned Actors Studio. In less than a year, Newman was winning awards for his performances on Broadway. He was quickly snatched up by Warner Bros. and sent to Hollywood. It was a move that would change his life forever.

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