Paul Leonard Newman (January 26, 1925 – September 26, 2008) was an American actor, film director, entrepreneur, professional racing driver and team owner; he was also an environmentalist, activist, and philanthropist. He won numerous awards, including an Academy Award for his performance in the 1986 film The Color of Money, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, an Emmy Award, and many honorary awards. Despite being colorblind, he won several national championships as a driver in Sports Car Club of America road racing, and his race teams won several championships in open wheel IndyCar racing.
Newman was married to actress Joanne Woodward from 1958 until his death. He was a co-founder of Newman’s Own, a food company from which Newman donated all post-tax profits and royalties to charity. As of 31 December 2014, these donations totaled US$429.3 million. He was also a co-founder of Safe Water Network, a nonprofit that develops sustainable drinking water solutions for those in need. In 1988, Newman founded the SeriousFun Children’s Network, a global family of camps and programs for children with serious illness which has served 290,076 children since its inception.
Newman was born on January 26, 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio, an affluent suburb of Cleveland. He was the second son of Theresa (née Fetzer, Fetzko, or Fetsko; Slovak: Terézia Fecková; died 1982) and Arthur Sigmund Newman (1894–1950), who ran a profitable sporting goods store. His father was Jewish (Paul’s paternal grandparents, Simon Newman and Hannah Cohn, were immigrants from Hungary and Poland).
His mother, Theresa, whose year of birth remains unclear but appears to have been between 1889 and 1895, a practitioner of Christian Science, was born to a Slovak Roman Catholic family at Homonna, Peticse, Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Humenné, Ptičie, Republic of Slovakia). Newman had no religion as an adult, but described himself as a Jew, saying, “it’s more of a challenge.” Newman’s mother worked in his father’s store, while raising Paul and his elder brother, Arthur, who later became a producer and production manager.
Newman showed an early interest in the theater; his first role was at the age of seven, playing the court jester in a school production of Robin Hood. At age 10, Newman performed at the Cleveland Play House in a production of Saint George and the Dragon, and was a notable actor and alumnus of their Curtain Pullers children’s theatre program. Graduating from Shaker Heights High School in 1943, he briefly attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where he was initiated into the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.
Newman was married to Jackie Witte from 1949 to 1958. They had a son, Scott (born 1950), and two daughters, Stephanie Kendall (born 1951) and Susan (born 1953). Scott, who appeared in films including Breakheart Pass, The Towering Inferno, and the 1977 film Fraternity Row, died in November 1978 from a drug overdose. Newman started the Scott Newman Center for drug abuse prevention in memory of his son. Susan Newman is a documentary filmmaker and philanthropist, and has Broadway and screen credits, including a starring role as one of four Beatles fans in I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), and also a small role opposite her father in Slap Shot. She also received an Emmy nomination as co-producer of his telefilm, The Shadow Box.
Newman met actress Joanne Woodward in 1953. Shortly after filming The Long, Hot Summer in 1957, he divorced Witte. He married Woodward early in 1958. They remained married for fifty years, until his death in 2008. They had three daughters: Elinor “Nell” Teresa (b. 1959), Melissa “Lissy” Stewart (b. 1961), and Claire “Clea” Olivia (b. 1965). Newman directed his daughter Elinor (whose acting name is Nell Potts) alongside her mother in the films Rachel, Rachel and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.
The Newmans moved away from Hollywood in the late 1960s, making their home in Westport, Connecticut. Newman was well known for his devotion to his wife and family. When once asked about infidelity, he famously quipped, “Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”
Newman was an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church.
Newman was scheduled to make his professional stage directing debut with the Westport Country Playhouse’s 2008 production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, but he stepped down on May 23, 2008, citing health issues.
In June 2008, it was widely reported that Newman had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was receiving treatment at Sloan-Kettering hospital in New York City. Writer A.E. Hotchner, who partnered in the 1980s with Newman to start Newman’s Own, told the Associated Press that Newman told him about the disease about eighteen months prior to the interview. Newman’s spokesman told the press that the star was “doing nicely”, but neither confirmed nor denied that he had cancer.
Newman died on the morning of September 26, 2008, aged 83, surrounded by family and friends. He was survived by his five daughters and by eight grandchildren. His remains were cremated after a private funeral service near his home in Westport.